WorkSafe and a construction company have entered into an enforceable undertaking instead of a prosecution following an accident to one of the employees.  The employee was grinding bolts off posts when the blade of the grinder shattered.  The pieces of the blade hit the employee in the face and penetrated through the safety goggles being worn.  This resulted in the loss of the employee’s eye.  The employee has been able to return to work and has been reintegrated back into the workforce.

WorkSafe regarded the failure to provide suitable protective equipment as being in the serious category of possible offences.  But it was not a reckless disregard for the employee’s safety. 

As part of the enforceable undertaking the employer will provide reparation to the victim, employ a better qualified health & safety coordinator to improve its health and safety systems.  Provide training to managers and all staff will receive further health and safety training.  Also engage experts to develop a best practice guide which can be disseminated to the public in relation to the use of grinders.  It will also provide further information on the safe use of grinders to all its staff and put notices in the New Zealand Herald and New Zealand Civil Contractors magazine outlining the dangers of using grinders.  It will also make a donation to the Blind Foundation and set up a health and safety programme for local high school students.

Instead of using a grinder to cut off the bolts a reciprocating saw should have been used.

The total cost of the enforceable undertaking is over $233,000.  The cost to the employee of course is the loss of sight of an eye and the other injuries suffered.

The company had no previous health and safety breaches but its failure to identify the risk of the blade shattering and penetrating the protective equipment provided lead to a serious outcome for its employee.

Alan Knowsley
Employment & Health & Safety Lawyer