The District Court has convicted and fined a high school for failing to take all reasonable and practical steps to prevent injury after a mobile scaffolding, with a teacher and student on it, fell when it was being moved.  The student and teacher fell from the scaffolding and suffered head and other injuries.

The school was ordered to pay $100,000 reparation and was also ordered to publish an article on safety for the New Zealand Online School Bulletin and to present a safety presentation at the National Conference of the School Trustees Association in 2020.  The article and safety presentation were in lieu of a fine.

The School Trustees Association has come out to say they were never consulted regarding the order and would not have agreed to any such order.

This leaves everyone wondering how WorkSafe could have agreed to such an order, and the Court impose such an order, when there was no agreement from the organisation that was going to have its conference used as part of the sentence.  It remains to be seen what will happen now that the school will be unable to complete the sentencing requirements, given the response of the School Trustees Association to the order.

It is also unclear as to how the school ever thought it was safe for scaffolding to be moved with a teacher and student on the scaffolding during the movement.  Mobile scaffolding can be moved for access to different areas, but has never been designed to be moved with staff or students still on the scaffolding.  The most basic health and safety plan in relation to the scaffolding should have prevented this from happening, but the school’s processes and procedures seem to have been inadequate.

Alan Knowsley
Health & Safety and Education Lawyer