Firm ordered to pay $25,000 after worker blinded

By Kate Shuttleworth

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

An aluminium joinery repair and maintenance company has been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $15,000 reparations to a worker blinded in one eye by a chisel on his second day of work.

Kerry Bruce Duggan, trading as Mr Alifix, was sentenced at the Tauranga District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to one offence under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

But Duggan said tonight the Department of Labour was wrong to prosecute him and he would have denied the charge if he could have afforded to.

"My legal fees are $7000 - if I fought it they would be more," Duggan said.

"I am sad about my worker losing his eye, but as far as the Labour Department went, the guy who originally investigated this said in his report there was no need for prosecution."

Duggan said the injured man must have done "something stupid that no one saw to get that tool in his eye".

"I think it was a safe environment. I haven't changed anything I do ... I still deglaze windows and do not wear safety glasses, but would make sure (workers) wear them."

The incident happened as Duggan and his employee were on the third storey of scaffolding removing window panes from Tauranga Boys College gym in May last year.

The Department of Labour said Duggan taught his employee to remove rubber seals using a screwdriver but gave him a chisel for the task when they were working at the gym.

The court heard that as the man tried to remove the seals he slipped and the chisel hit his eye.

The department's Ona De Rooy said an investigation found a few simple measures could have reduced the potential for harm significantly.

"It is unacceptable that Mr Duggan failed to adequately prepare his employee to carry out this work. A safe procedure for removing seals from window frames should have been established, appropriate tools such as a specific pry tool or putty knife should have been used and protective eyewear should have been worn. This would have prevented an accident such as this from happening."

- APNZ

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