The District Court has convicted and fined two employers after an incident on a construction site.  The two companies were contracted to build a milking shed.  One of the companies was building the shed and putting on the roof and the other company was installing the engineering into the milking shed. 

During the construction the weather deteriorated while the roof was being constructed and some of the roofing materials were not properly secured down before the workmen had to get off the roof due to increased winds.

Unfortunately, no one thought to warn the workers of the other company on site not to go under the roof.  Roofing materials blew off the roof and fell into the void underneath landing directly on the heads of two workers below.  They both suffered serious injuries and one has still not been able to return to work over a year after the accident.

The Court concluded that the building company was most at fault and that the starting point for its fine would be $300,000.  The fine for the engineering company was set at $191,000.  Even though it had not placed the building materials on the roof insecurely it had still failed to ensure its workers did not work under the roof being constructed, which was in breach of its own health and safety policies.

The building firm’s fine was reduced from $300,000 to $150,000 because of an inability to pay the fine. 

In addition to the fines both companies were ordered to pay a split of compensation of $126,000 to the two workers.  The larger proportion of the reparation was to be paid by the building company.

When two companies are working on the same site they must coordinate their activities to ensure that they keep each other’s workers safe.  Here the building company failed to alert the engineering company to the fact that insecure materials had been left on the roof and that no one should be working underneath those.  If they had taken that simple step, the injuries would not have occurred.  Likewise if the engineering company had enforced its own health and safety policy of not working under a roof that was being constructed, the injuries would also not have occurred.  Those failings meant that neither company had taken all practical steps to eliminate or minimise the risks to its employees.

Alan Knowsley
Health & Safety Lawyer