WorkSafe accepts enforceable undertakings from Plunket Electrical Oamaru and McConnell Dowell Constructors

We have accepted enforceable undertakings from Plunket Electrical Oamaru Limited and McConnell Dowell Constructors Limited.

The enforceable undertakings were granted following an incident at Peaks Pump Station in North Otago in September 2016.

Three workers employed by Plunket Electrical Oamaru were installing a 1400kg switchboard when the switchboard tipped forward and struck one of the workers in the abdomen. The worker would have been crushed and trapped by the full weight of the switchboard had it not landed on a steel stand nearby. The worker was left with crush injuries to his abdomen including a spleen laceration.

McConnell Dowell Constructors were project managing the site while Plunket Electrical Oamaru was completing the installation. Both companies had obligations to the health and safety of workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and our investigation found their failures contributed to the unnecessary injury of the worker.

WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries said this was a case of poor planning and that risks relating to the movement and lifting of large and heavy objects need to be managed appropriately.

"This was a lucky escape for the worker who could have been more significantly injured by the falling switchboard. The enforceable undertakings agreed on by both parties will provide benefits to the local community, electrical profession and project management space that will help prevent similar incidents occurring again. WorkSafe will be monitoring compliance with both enforceable undertakings to ensure the commitments outlined in the undertakings are delivered on."

The affected employee is supportive of the enforceable undertakings.

Under Plunket Electrical Oamaru Limited’s enforceable undertaking, the company committed to initiatives including:

  • In addition to a voluntary payment already made, a further voluntary payment to the victim and other staff involved in the incident and ACC top up for the victim.
  • Providing NZQA approved courses to employees.
  • Engaging a speaker approved by WorkSafe to attend a whole of staff meeting to discuss health and safety.
  • Developing a video designed for Master Electricians that focuses on hazard identification.
  • Developing a video or course specifically targeting hazard identification and health and safety for an electrical training provider, the Electrical Training Company (ETCO).
  • Publishing an article for SafeGuard and other industry publications.
  • Donating $5000 to St John Ambulance and $5000 to Rescue Helicopter.
  • Covering the costs for SiteSafe or a similar organisation to attend and run a stall at the Oamaru A&P Show.
  • Providing $15,000 to put towards funding for a health and safety radio/digital campaign.

Plunket Electrical Director Mark Rawson said: “This entire experience has been a journey with many learning outcomes for management and staff. It has brought home the fact that although we place a strong emphasis on health and safety for our employees, there are always areas that need improving.

“As a team involving both staff and management, we look forward to working towards achieving the commitments set out in the undertaking. We certainly hope that our example will make others in the industry more aware to ensure the safety of all staff, so that an incident like this can be avoided in the future.

“Thinking that “this will never happen to us” is not an option for anyone. We look forward to working through the initiatives from our Enforceable Undertaking and making a difference, not just locally, but to the industry as a whole.”

Under McConnell Dowell’s enforceable undertaking, the company committed to initiatives including:

  • Providing financial assistance to the victim.
  • Developing and providing workshops to revise and improve a number of its subcontract management and high-risk work procedures.
  • Providing safety leadership training for management and supervisory personnel.
  • Arranging for all site supervisors to attend a two day training course provided by SiteSafe.
  • Developing an electricity industry installation practice guide in conjunction with Master Electricians.
  • Developing a ConstructSafe certification for the electrical industry in conjunction with Master Electricians and ETCO.
  • Publishing articles for industry publications about the incident to increase industry awareness of the need to plan and supervise the safe installation of switchboards and heavy electrical equipment.
  • Making a donation to Otago Rescue Helicopter.
  • Sponsoring St Johns Ambulance to run a first aid course for up to 20 people from the local farming community.

McConnell Dowell Constructors Managing Director - New Zealand and Pacific Islands, Fraser Wyllie, said: “We deeply regret that this incident occurred, and that one of our team members was harmed on one of our projects. Everyone deserves to go home without harm at the end of the day, and it’s disappointing that in this instance that did not occur.

“It is important that we learn from this incident, both at an organisation and industry level, in order to make improvements to prevent this from happening again.

“We welcome the opportunity that this undertaking provides for us to improve the safety of our sites, and hope the changes we make as a result will benefit the construction industry as a whole.”

The full enforceable undertakings together with the reasons for our decisions are available at:

Plunket Electrical Oamaru Limited

McConnell Dowell Constructors Limited

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Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz