Company fined over construction death

Last updated 13:45 11/04/2014
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: A tattoo of Jeff McCulloch on the arm of his daughter, Shyanne Barnes.

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Hawke's Bay

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Jeff McCulloch died before he could he could walk his daughters down the aisle.

But he'll still be with Shyanne Barnes on her wedding day, imprinted in ink on her arm.

Barnes broke down today as she told the Napier District Court she thinks about her father dying on a construction site every day.

Patton Engineering were fined and ordered to pay the family compensation after McCulloch died on a Napier building site on May 15 last year.

The firm pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of a worker, under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

The Health and Safety Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment laid the charge late last year.

McCulloch, 53, was the foreman on the job to reinforce the old Farmers building on the corner of Emerson and Hastings streets.

Judge Tony Adeane said McCulloch was putting in steel beams with a colleague at the time of the accident.

It appears McCulloch stumbled and grabbed on to the beam for support. But it was not properly secured to the frame. The beam dislodged and struck him on the head. Workmates failed to resuscitate him and McCulloch was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Hawke's Bay company had already put $20,000 in a trust fund to go towards McCulloch's children and grandchildren before sentencing today.

The company was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay $70,000 compensation to be divided between McCulloch's two daughters.

In a victim impact statement, Barnes said McCulloch was her mechanic, her security and her father. He was always there to give her a hand or spot her some money if she was struggling financially.

The 26-year-old often thinks ''I'll ask Dad about that'' but then anger and grief overwhelms her as she remembers the day he died.

Some days she feels like she can't handle life and just wants to hide away in a corner.

Barnes was once a happy person but negativity and fear now ruled her life.

''I'm living in fear, I'm scared all the time of losing another loved one.''

The death had also affected her four-year-old son Jacobi. He often worried when his mother was at work saying: ''Grandad died at work''.

It was heartbreaking to Barnes that her son associated work with death.

After the accident, Barnes had a portrait of her father tattooed on her forearm.

Outside of court, Barnes said she was relieved someone had been held accountable for her father's death.

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She was still coming to terms that her father wouldn't be there on her wedding day. He would not get to see her younger sister finish high school or see his grandson grow up.

Engineering Printing and Manufacturing union Hawke's Bay and Gisborne manager Norm Mouritsen was pleased with the outcome of the sentencing.

''It's an absolute tragedy... the reality is a father and son is gone, and a partner, and you just can't bring him back.''

Mr Mouritsen said there was still a long way to go in improving workplace health and safety.

''An accident has happened, there's been a death, there's been evidence stating what has happened and I'll say generally corners are cut and there's always pressures to meet deadlines.''

- The Dominion Post

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