Three companies working in the construction sector have been sentenced for two separate incidents that each resulted in the tragic death of a young worker.

In the first incident, a 21-year-old was killed when the steel beam he was removing fell and killed him on a Newmarket construction site.  The young man was standing on a stack of five wooden pallets to use an angle grinder when the beam fell.

WorkSafe said the workers at the site had devised an ad-hoc way to get the job done when their original method could no longer be used.  Unfortunately, they did not have access to safety-critical information about the security of the 500-kilogram beam.

The incident highlights the need to stop work when situations change, and carry out effective risk assessments, in consultation with experts where necessary, to develop a new safe work method.  At sentencing, the company was fined $180,000 and reparations of $110,000 were ordered.

In the second incident, a 19-year-old apprentice was killed in March 2022 when timber framing weighing 350 kilograms fell on him at a residential building site in Ōmokoroa.

A WorkSafe investigation found the risk was heightened by the framing being manually installed around the site, and a temporary support brace being removed just prior to the fatal incident.  When one frame knocked another, it fell on the teenager.

The employer of the victim provided building labour for the main contractor on site, and both were charged in relation to the death.  WorkSafe said the companies should have consulted with each other about an agreed framing installation plan and that a mechanical aid (such as a Hiab crane truck) should have been used to lift the framing into place.

At sentencing, the employer of the victim was fined only $30,000 due to financial incapacity, and the main contractor was fined $210,000.  Reparations of $130,000 were ordered to be paid to the victim’s family, along with $15,072 to his co-worker – a fellow apprentice.

A number of serious injuries while handling, installing, and adjusting large or heavy frames and trusses prompted WorkSafe to put out a safety alert on the topic in 2019.  It strongly advises PCBUs to use a crane to assist with their installation.