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Company fined over worker’s death

By Chelsea Boyle

[email protected]

A Wairarapa man electrocuted while working on an egg farm should never have been undertaking the work he was doing when he was killed, a court has heard.

The 44-year-old electrician died while repairing a refrigeration unit at Henergy egg farm in Masterton on February 4, 2016.

On Wednesday at Masterton District Court, the man’s employer, Callister Electrical and Refrigeration, was ordered to pay nearly $140,000 – $95,000 in reparations, and a $43,000 fine.

The company pleaded guilty last year to failing to take practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employee, who was given name suppression.

The man, a trainee apprentice, was working in a confined space described as “dusty”, and reaching temperatures of around 29 degrees.

He had gone through a crawl space and climbed through a manhole to access a roof space to help with fault testing.

He had been taping ducting when the power was restored for a final fault test.

He was found slumped over the refrigeration unit, and it is understood his fingers had touched live points inside the terminal box.

The court heard how all attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Judge Barbara Morris said any figure by way of reparation or fine could not in any way be commensurate with the loss of life.

The death had left a chasm in the family, she said, taking a much-loved member away from a “close-knit family”.

The victim had been in the prime of his life.

The judge said as a trainee apprentice the man should not have been conducting unsupervised work with a power circuit.

However, she said the company was not cavalier about its obligations to protect their employees from harm and the sad incident was a “blemish” on an otherwise excellent safety record.

Callister Electrical and Refrigeration had taken responsibility as soon as possible for what had happened, entering an early guilty plea and offering to engage in restorative justice, which was declined.

Lawyer Catalijne Pille, representing WorkSafe, said the man’s supervisor did not hold the appropriate practising licence to be overseeing.

The prosecution and defence agreed this was a technicality, as the supervisor had the required experience but “for the fault of applying for the wrong licence” was unqualified.

Ms Pille continued that the main failing was that the victim should not have been undertaking the work in the first place.

Callister’s lawyer Duncan McGill said his client accepted that the victim should not have been doing the work he was doing, despite the fact he was a relatively experienced apprentice.

After the hearing, on behalf of the company, lawyer Mark Davis said they had been devastated by the loss of a beloved worker, and that the impact had been felt by the directors and workers.

He said the hearing had been reasonable.

“The judge made comments that the company is not a cavalier operation and that it had an excellent safety record” – factors which had been considered in mitigation.

Speaking after the case, WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said the case highlighted the need to properly supervise trainee employees.

“It also serves as a reminder that workers should only do the work they are trained to do, and in the case of electricity, work they are permitted to do by law,” he said.

“There were a series of failures in this event that ranged beyond the management of the electrical work.

“There was inadequate hazard identification and a lack of risk assessment and sadly the result was that a trainee employee did not return home from work.”


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