Company director sentenced to home detention after worker’s death

Earlier this week the director of Steelcon Construction Limited (Steelcon), was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to four months home detention for charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The charges related to the death of a worker who died after he was buried when a trench he was working in collapsed in May 2014.

The worker was working in a trench while installing a concrete effluent transfer tank and pipes at a farm in Matamata for Steelcon. While cleaning dirt from the area where the tank pit joined the pipe trench, the face of the trench collapsed. Approximately five cubic metres of soil, estimated to weigh eight tonnes, fell on him causing his death.

WorkSafe’s investigation into the worker's death found that Steelcon had not dug the trench in a safe manner, and had failed to shore up the trench. Further, the stability of the soil had not been assessed prior to Steelcon commencing work.

The director had pled guilty to charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of workers and for failing to take an action that is reasonably likely to cause serious harm.

Steelcon was fined $56,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $121,320 in relation to the incident after pleading guilty to similar charges.

We will continue to monitor any developments in this area, particularly as the Courts begin to interpret the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 which comes into force on 4 April 2016.