Transfield defends worker safety charge

Last updated 12:48 29/10/2012

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The lead contractor on a Makara wind farm site where a worker died last year has begun defending a charge that it failed to protect people working there.

Filipino father of four Edwin Sarmiento, 42, died at the scene and Antonio Maniago was seriously injured when a machine toppled as it was lifting them in a cage to do line maintenance.

Transfield Services (NZ) has pleaded not guilty in Wellington District Court to a charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure employees of a contractor, Electrix, were not harmed. Sarmiento and Maniago worked for Electrix when the accident happened on June 2 last year.

Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry prosecutor Greg La Hood said today that maintenance work was being done on the power lines linking the North and South islands.

The two men were in a platform being lifted by a Manitou telescopic handler, a boom mounted on a piece of machinery that looked like a tractor, when the Manitou toppled on the ridge of a steep gully and the men fell about 20 metres.

Among the issues Judge Tom Broadmore is to hear evidence about during a hearing that may last up to a week, is what slope the Manitou was on and whether the slope was within its capability.

La Hood said the ministry's evidence would show that there were steps that could have been taken to protect the workers.

Transfield should have ensured the Manitou was used within its slope limits, the site could have been levelled, or the work could have been done from suspended ladders rather than using the Manitou. The adequacy of the training of the Manitou operator is also being questioned.

Hood said Transfield controlled the work site and hired the Manitou.

If convicted Transfield could be fined up to $250,000.

The hearing is continuing.

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- The Dominion Post

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