Scaffold firm guilty of safety failures

By Katie Holland of The Daily Post -
Photo / File
Photo / File

A Rotorua man was knocked unconscious and spent two days in hospital after he fell from scaffolding when it gave way, the Rotorua District Court has been told.

Whakatane-based company Cobweb Scaffolding was found guilty yesterday of a charge of hiring scaffolding to a Rotorua couple to be used in a place of work and failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the scaffolding was maintained so it was safe for its intended use. The company had pleaded not guilty to the charge brought against it under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

The company pleaded guilty in June to another charge of failing to take all practicable steps to install and arrange the scaffolding so it was safe for its intended use after it failed to lash the scaffolding planks.

Catalijne Pille, who appeared on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said Cobweb Scaffolding was contracted by Robert Van der Hueval on behalf of home owners Gerrie and Katie Snyman to supply scaffold, including scaffolding planks, to a residential building site on Gemini Place.

Cobweb Scaffolding provided and erected, among other scaffold components, planks to the site.

Amalgamated Roofing was to supply and fit a new roof to the property.

On August 8 last year, Ryan van Miert, who was then an employee of Amalgamated Roofing, fell about 1.2m on to the next level of the scaffold structure when a Hyplank scaffolding plank broke.

Ms Pille said there would be evidence from an expert showing the scaffolding plank had brown rot, fungal decay and significant moisture.

It was the ministry's case that the company did not machine test the planks annually and there were issues over the way the scaffolding was stored.

"The defendant has fallen well short of its obligations," Ms Pille said.

In his evidence, Mr van Miert told the court he was standing on scaffolding that was 3m from the ground.

"As I stepped along the scaffolding plank it gave way. I fell and hit my head," he said.

Mr van Miert fell on to scaffolding underneath and was knocked unconscious. He tried to get up but "blacked out".

A workmate took Mr van Miert to hospital where he spent two days. He suffered mild concussion and bruised ribs and was off work for about two weeks.

While being cross-examined by Cobweb Scaffolding's lawyer, Paul White, Mr van Miert said he had a history of epilepsy but said a scan taken at the hospital showed there was no evidence of him having epilepsy at the time of the incident.

Mr van Miert denied jumping from the roof on to the scaffolding when that was put to him by Mr White.

"There was no jumping involved," Mr van Miert said.

Cobweb Scaffolding director John Watson said he had been a scaffolder for many years and since 1994, when the company started, he had never had a scaffolding plank break.

He said they did "jump tests" on the scaffolding once a year.

Mr Watson said their testing was at least as tough as the regulations, if not tougher. He said the scaffolding planks were stacked and under cover.

He thought the scaffolding was being used for work on facials and cladding on the property. "It wasn't compliant with the roofing."

Mr Watson told Judge Chris McGuire the employee responsible for erecting the scaffolding had told him procedures had not been followed.

Judge McGuire said the charge had been proven and remanded the company for sentencing on December 19.

Mr White indicated to the court that Cobweb Scaffolding was considering lodging an appeal.

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