The District Court has ordered an employer to pay $143,000 after an employee fell from a height of 3.7m due to inadequate health and safety measures.

The employee was working on a roof when he went to support himself by grabbing the roof edge protection. The protection gave way under his weight and the employee fell from the roof.

The employee sustained serious injuries, landing on concrete when he fell. He was hospitalised for 10 days and his recovery lasted over a year.

The employer was charged for failing to comply with New Zealand health and safety standards. The District Court found that as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, the employer was required to ensure the health and safety of its workers, so far as reasonably practicable.

In this case, the employer’s failures when installing the roof meant that the employee was exposed to a risk of falling from a height, and therefore at  risk of suffering serious injury or death. The Court decided that this risk occurred due to the lack of adequate assessments before and after installing the roof edge protection.

The Court decided that it was “reasonably practicable” to ensure that the protection was installed correctly before allowing employees onto the roof. Falls from a height are a well-known hazard in the industry and were an obvious risk to the employer.

The Court also decided that the costs to ensure that the roof was installed correctly were low, and therefore reasonable for the employer to undertake.

The Court assessed the starting point of the fine as $500,000, a level of medium culpability. The fine was reduced to $100,000 after accounting for the employer’s guilty plea, early steps taken to support the victim, co-operation with WorkSafe, and for having no previous breaches.

The employer was also ordered to pay $43,000 in reparations to the victim.

It is important to understand your obligations as a PCBU. If you are unsure about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors