Subcontractors are entitled to health and safety too

WorkSafe New Zealand says workers deserve better than to continue dying on the job in falls from height.

A Canterbury business, Dan’s Renovations, has been sentenced for health and safety failings over the death of a subcontractor in February 2021. The 56-year-old man was painting the flat, one-storey roof when he fatally fell 4.5 metres to the ground.

In a reserved decision, Judge Gerard Lynch has described the death as having a “devastating and multidimensional impact…felt across generations” for the victim’s family.

Dan’s Renovations did not have significant experience of working at heights.

WorkSafe’s investigation also found there was no site-specific safety plan in place, and no edge protection (for example, scaffolding) installed around the perimeter of the building in Sydenham. As a result, four workers, including the victim, were exposed to the risk of injury or death.

“This incident is proof that a flat roof does not mean a safe roof – especially when it’s 4.5 metres high. This was an unprotected and unsafe working environment,” says WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions, Dr Catherine Gardner.

“Lead contractors owe all workers onsite a duty of care, whether they’re subcontractors or your own staff. Lead contractors must ensure the risks are being controlled to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Everybody knows the dangers of working at height. The expectations are well established and exist for a reason so they need to be followed,” says Dr Gardner.

Read the good practice guidelines for working on roofs

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