John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for APNZ.

Firm to pay roofer compensation after fall

Quick-thinking labourer catches plummeting roofer

Jesse Bryant saved a man's life when he caught him falling from a roof. Photo / Doug Sherring
Jesse Bryant saved a man's life when he caught him falling from a roof. Photo / Doug Sherring

A roofer is lucky to have been caught by a workmate after falling from the top of a two-storey house.

The Mt Eden house. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Mt Eden house. Photo / Doug Sherring

At the North Shore District Court last week, KLS Roofing was fined and ordered to compensate roofer Kevin Curtis after the incident.

Curtis arrived for work at a Mt Eden house on June 20 last year. A different contractor had hired Jesse Bryant as a labourer.

"It was a rainy, windy day and he wasn't that sure about working on the roof but he bit the bullet and decided to do what he had to do to get the job done," Bryant told the Herald on Sunday.

When Curtis arrived, scaffolding had been removed. "How do I get to anything with no scaffold?" he asked his bosses in a text message provided to the court. "The roof's unwalkable when it's wet."

KLS had replied: "We will need to use ladders for access and either stand on screws or put a piece of timber on the screws to form a perch." Curtis had installed a perch and started trimming roofing sheets, before slipping.

"I was working below him and I heard a noise. I looked up and saw him falling two storeys off the roof," Bryant recalled.

"I could see that the way he was falling, he was going to hit his head. I had one of those split-second decisions. I just ran up and tackled him, basically." Bryant and Curtis had both fallen into a hole.

"I remember waking up on site, obviously in agony, trying to get myself out of the hole," Curtis said. "It was hailing when I woke up in the hole."

The court heard Curtis injured his collarbone, right shoulder blade, right wrist and two ribs. His wrist was in a cast for about six weeks and his arm was in a sling for two months.

Now back at work, he said he had occasional flashbacks of falling but didn't fully recall the accident.

In court last week Judge Pippa Sinclair said "head injuries or possible death could have occurred" if Curtis had fallen just another metre and Bryant hadn't caught him. The roof was about 2.4m to 3m above the ground and had a pitch of 31 degrees.

Worksafe and the Department of Labour said KLS should have stopped work for a hazard assessment and safe way to proceed.

KLS admitted fault. The maximum possible penalty was $250,000 but Judge Sinclair took into account an early guilty plea, a previously unblemished record, and an earlier offer to compensate the roofer. She ordered KLS to pay a $46,000 fine and Curtis $10,000 in compensation.

Geoff Higgins, who hired Bryant that day, praised the young man. "It shook everyone up because Kevin was a very nice guy," Higgins said.

Bryant said: "I guess in hindsight it's a good thing I was there. Split-second thinking gets your instincts going."

- Herald on Sunday

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