Worker crushed by 130kg block of polystyrene

File photo.

Polystyrene insulation company Expol Ltd has been sentenced in Auckland District Court last week following an incident where a worker was crushed by a large high density polystyrene block.

The charges follow an incident in July 2016 when a worker was moving two five metre high, 130 kilogram polystyrene blocks, onto a trolley when the trolley locking clamp prematurely released and one of the blocks fell on top of him.

The worker sustained severe crushing injuries including two spinal fractures, fractured ribs and a fractured ankle. 

His injuries required three surgeries and it was six months before he could return to work.

WorkSafe’s investigation found multiple failings at the company’s Onehunga site including that there was no effective risk assessment of the block moulding machine and lifting trolley, there were guarding issues with the block moulding machine, there was no safe system of work for the block moulding process, and they should have provided plant that was safe for workers to use.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries says the injury could have been avoided.

“Expecting workers to move large and heavy items without the right equipment or systems in place is not good health and safety management. Working with 130kg loads brings with it the risk of serious harm and those risks need to be managed.”

Following the incident Expol took the trolley out of commission, developed a new procedure for lifting blocks off the conveyer using a forklift, updated their standard operating procedure, upskilled their workers and installed safety barriers.

“Expol were quickly able to take their workplace from one with a number of health and safety failings to one with a safe system of work for their workers.  It should not take an incident like this for employers to pick up their game.” Mr Humphries concluded.

Expol Ltd was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 which states:

-   Being a PCBU, it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU while at work in the business or undertaking.

A fine of $240,000 has also been imposed in relation to the incident along with reparations of $40,000. The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.