Children are always at risk on worksites

WorkSafe is reminding everyone that children are always at risk if brought onto worksites, after an unsupported stack of wood at a Timaru lumber yard collapsed on a three-year-old, causing fatal injuries.

On Friday 5 June, Point Lumber Limited, a timber processing company, was fined $32,000 at the Timaru District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE), for failing to take a number of reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of people in the workplace.

In March 2016 a three-year-old boy was visiting his father for lunch at the lumber yard. The boy was climbing an unsecure stack of barn posts when they collapsed, causing fatal chest and lung injuries.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the timber had been stacked unsafely.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector Steve Kelly said this tragic incident was the result of a number of errors and was a devastating reminder that worksites were generally unsafe for children.

“Children want to explore, try new things and push boundaries. They perceive things differently to adults. The children of employees, even under supervision, should not have been allowed near these large piles of unsecured timber. Worksites are not playgrounds.

“Had the large piles of unsecured timber on the site been managed appropriately in the first instance, the incident could have been avoided. Businesses are required to have systems or policies in place to keep people safe. Ensuring they are implemented every day, and your workers are on board with them, is the key to good health and safety.”

The sentencing is one of the last prosecutions to go through the courts under HSE. Under HSE charges against Point Lumber Limited carry a maximum fine of $250,000. Had the company faced charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 they could have faced a fine of up to $1,500,000.

Notes:

  • A fine of $32,000 was imposed.
  • Reparation of $100,000 was ordered.
  • Point Lumber Limited was sentenced under sections 15 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
    • Being an employer failed to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or inaction of any employee while at work harmed any other person.
  • Carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

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