The following is an abridgement of an article originally published on the WorkSafe New Zealand website.
A teenage apprentice died after being struck by falling timber framing (350kg) on a construction site in New Zealand, in March 2022. The apprentice was 4 months into an apprenticeship with the building company at the time.
Both the company providing building labour for the main contractor, and the main contractor, were sentenced at Tauranga District Court on 31st January 2024, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.
The WorkSafe investigation found the risk was increased by the frame being manually installed around the site, and a temporary support brace being removed just prior to the incident. When one frame knocked the other, it fell on top of the apprentice.
Both the entities were charged for health and safety failures. WorkSafe says the businesses should have consulted each other on the framing installation plan and made sure a mechanical aid (e.g. HIAB crane truck) was used.
WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West says,
“The safest way would have been to mechanically lift the framing into place, given its weight. This can come at little to no extra cost. In this case, the supplier delivering the framing had a HIAB and could have lifted it into place if asked."
“The high number of deaths and injuries tell us construction is a very dangerous industry. WorkSafe has seen other similar incidents where workers handling large or heavy frames have been paralysed or killed."
"It is unacceptable that companies are not identifying the risks and providing workers with a safe workplace."
"We can only hope the death of a very young apprentice might motivate the step change required to improve the sector’s health and safety performance."
The labour provider was only fined $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 apprentices family, and $15,072 to his co-worker who was a fellow apprentice.
Both entities were charged under sections 36(1)(a), s 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for failing in the PCBUs responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers working for the PCBU.
WorkSafe has issued some advice for builders and contractors on how to prevent accidents involving framing through their 2019 safety alert on installing frames web page.
Apprentice builder killed by falling framing by WorkSafe New Zealand, 1st February, 2024.