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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

PCBUs not coordinating

PCBUs not coordinating
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New Zealand

The need for PCBUs working on the same site to consult, cooperate and coordinate with each other has been well illustrated in the prosecution of two parties brought after a partially welded lintel fell onto a contractor's legs when the props holding it up were removed.

The principal, Hughes Partners Ltd, required site manager approval before props on a lintel were removed, but it failed to check its subcontractor was adhering to this system. The subcontractor, Greta Construction Ltd, placed too much reliance on verbal communication, which proved to be inconsistent on the site.

Hughes pleaded guilty to a section 18 charge and was fined $50,625 and ordered to pay reparation of $18,000. Greta took no part in court proceedings and was found guilty on formal proof, also under s18. It was fined $120,000 with reparations of $27,000 (North Shore DC, 14 October 2015).

The October 2014 incident in Orewa occurred during the construction of a residential block. As main contractor, Hughes contracted Greta to install propping around concrete panel work, as there were more than 200 precast concrete panels to be erected, including lintels. In turn, Greta contracted two men to provide labour. Another company was contracted by Hughes to complete the steel structure and do related welding.

The procedure for installing a lintel was to use a crane to lower it onto wooden propping. The crane continued to hold it while the steel plates on the lintel were tack welded onto the wall plates as a temporary measure to enable the welders and the crane to move on to other work. The propping remained in place until the welders returned to complete the weld.

On this occasion the tack welds were completed before it was realised the lintel was positioned at the wrong height. The crane moved on and most workers went to lunch, except for three who worked to reset this and other lintels at the correct height.

After lunch the Greta director instructed the two contracted workers to remove the props from the lintel that had only been tack welded. The welds failed and the lintel, weighing over a tonne, landed on one of the men and crushed the base of a ladder the other was standing on. The first man suffered leg bone fractures and multiple ligament injuries, putting him in hospital for two months and limiting his mobility for several months after. The second man had a sore back for two weeks.

At a toolbox meeting two days earlier Hughes had discussed the removal of props and emphasised there was to be no removing of props without the approval of one of the site managers. Greta's director was present but the two men subsequently injured were not.

Practicable steps open to Greta included conducting a risk assessment of the removal of props from lintels, providing training to the two contracted men to enable them to identify whether a lintel was tack welded or fully welded, or asking the welders if welding was complete.

"An agreed work plan would not necessarily involve any cost to Greta and would have been considerably more effective than relying on verbal communication, which inconsistent on the site," noted Judge SJ O'Driscoll.

There was no written or other formal procedure to enable the welders to advise Hughes or Greta when welding was completed on a lintel, which the judge described as a further example of ineffective reliance on verbal communication. Practicable steps available included a permit to work system requiring authorisation from welders before prop removal, warning signs for tack-welded lintels, and/or clearly marking fully tacked lintels. Also, there was no management of the risk in adjusting the height of a lintel which was tack-welded.

While Hughes had imposed the requirement that site manager approval was required before lintel props were removed, it had clearly not worked. "It is incumbent on any principal to ensure that it approves and continues to check the proposed processes of a contractor ... Hughes was not prudent in that respect."

The judge was particularly concerned that neither defendant had taken steps to ensure that the two injured men were aware of the welding processes for lintels. "It would have been a very simple measure to educate these employees and improve their appreciation of the risks involved."

Organisations Mentioned:
Hughes Partners; Greta Construction
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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