The District Court has penalised an employer after it pleaded guilty following the death of one of its employees who fell off a ladder at work.  The worker had climbed up the ladder to carry out some repairs, but the ladder was not secured and there was no edge protection where the worker was standing.  The worker landed on concrete and suffered a head injury from which he tragically died a short time later.

The Court awarded $70,000 in reparation be paid to the employee’s wife and a further $100,000 be paid to his five children equally. 

In addition the Court ordered that the company pay a fine $506,000, which took into account the guilty plea and remorse shown by the employer, plus the reparation already paid to the spouse and children and the support given to the family following the accident.  The Court also ordered the company to pay $36,000 in costs for the prosecution.  Total penalties and costs amounted to $712,000.

The Court said that the company’s culpability was at the high end of the scale, because it had failed to appreciate in sufficient detail the risks to employees from working from ladders and it failed to adequately deal with those risks when they were obvious.  Though the company was working on plans to assess and deal with the risks, its steps were inadequate, given the simple actions which could have been taken to prevent the worker’s death.

Employers must assess risks in the workplace and take all practical steps to eliminate or minimise those risks and a failure to do so will have a significant impact by way of fines and penalties imposed over and above the trauma suffered because of a tragic accident.

Alan Knowsley
Employment & Health Safety Lawyer