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Boss gets Home Detention and Ordered to Pay $177k after Trench Collapse

Published 09 Apr 2016

Boss of a Waikato based construction company has been handed a sentence of Home Detention following the collapse of a trench at one of their worksites resulting in the death of a worker.

The 34 year old employee was assisting in the installation of an effluent tank & pipes on a farm in Matamata when the sides of the pipe trench gave way and buried the victim.

Following a WorkSafe NZ investigation it was found the 4 metre deep trench had not been shored up or had the sides battered, nor a soil density check been undertaken.

They pleaded guilty under the HSE 1992 and were fined $56,000, reparations awarded of $121,320 and the company Director to 4 months home detention.

Excavation work is considered high risk and is one of the major focus points under the new HSW Act.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, said the death was a tragic reminder of the inherent risks of excavation work and the need to closely manage those risks.

"Anyone digging a four metre deep trench should be aware of the possibility of collapse and should take proper precautions against collapse – such as shoring or battering work. He was needlessly in harm’s way while at work. We know how to dig trenches safely – it’s not hard to take the necessary safety precautions,” says Keith Stewart.

Had this occured after April 4th the PCBU and Officers would have been charged under the new HSWA and the penalties would have no doubt been a lot stiffer.