Payments of $419,000 ordered for workplace death

A Christchurch engineering firm must pay a fine, reparations and costs totalling $419,176 over the June 2017 death of a worker who was crushed by a beam that toppled as it was being moved.

The name of the man who was killed at Pegasus Engineering’s plant at Rolleston was suppressed at the request of the WorkSafe NZ prosecutor.

All three directors of the firm and its managing director were present at the Christchurch District Court sentencing which followed its guilty plea to a charge of exposing a worker to a risk of harm.

Counsel for the company, Marie Wisker, told Judge David Saunders the company expressed its genuine remorse to the families affected by the accident, and the judge said its actions had “spoken loudly” about the support it was arranging.

Worksafe prosecutor Tasha Szeto said the worker involved had been trained and certified to use the crane and lifting equipment that he was operating when the accident occurred.

But she said there needed to be “constant reminders” in the workplace, and active monitoring and supervision that those instructions were put in place.

Judge Saunders said a deterrent penalty with “some bite” was needed, but there was no suggestion that this company had a slack or casual attitude to its obligations.

He noted the steps it had taken to improve safety and compliance, and how it had updated other steel companies about the incident and the steps taken. It was ensuring there was a high level of monitoring, assessment, and supervision in the workplace.

The company had co-operated fully with the WorkSafe investigation, and had pleaded guilty.

Judge Saunders ruled that a work colleague of the employee who was killed, who was working nearby and was one of the first responders, could be regarded as a “victim” and qualified for emotional harm reparations and other losses. He fixed that payment at $45,000 in total. The man had suffered severe emotion harm and loss of earnings.

He ordered emotional harm reparations to the family of the employee who was killed totalling $100,000 and other losses totalling $23,240. The reparations included the company’s financial support for the man’s daughter’s university studies.

He also fined the company $250,000 and ordered it to pay prosecution costs of $936.

The reparation orders are covered by the company’s insurance.