Scaffolding company has to pay $30k after worker's fall

By Katie Holland

A scaffolding company has been ordered to pay $30,000 after a worker suffered head injuries when he fell through a rotten scaffolding plank.

Whakatane-based Cobweb Scaffolding was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court this week after it was found guilty last month of hiring scaffolding to a Rotorua couple to be used in a place of work and failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its scaffolding was maintained so it was safe for its intended use - a charge brought against them under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. It pleaded guilty in June to another charge of failing to properly lash the scaffolding planks.

The company was ordered to pay a $22,500 fine plus $7500 reparation to Ryan van Miert, who was injured when one of the company's scaffolding planks broke.

In 2011, Cobweb Scaffolding was contracted to supply scaffold, including planks, to a residential building site on Gemini Pl. Another company - Amalgamated Roofing - was to fit a new roof to the property. On August 8, Mr van Miert, then an employee of Amalgamated Roofing, fell about 1.2m when a rotten plank broke.

He was knocked unconscious and suffered concussion, bruised ribs and was off work for about two weeks.

In sentencing, Judge Chris McGuire said Cobweb Scaffolding had been in business a long time and had taken part in setting industry standards.

He said there had been some "loose" evidence around the company's procedures for replacing older or unsuitable planks.

"As with most human endeavours unless there are stringent standards and procedures that are enforced ... it's clear people over time tend to erode and take shortcuts," he said. "All in all this was a completely avoidable accident. The appearance of the offending plank, to even the uninformed bystander, would have demonstrated that it was unsuitable."

Judge McGuire said the starting point for a fine was $60,000 but in reducing that he had taken into account the economic climate and the need for the company to survive.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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