Fletcher fined $45k after fall

HOTEL GRAND CHANCELLOR: Wrecked in the earthquake.
HOTEL GRAND CHANCELLOR: Wrecked in the earthquake.

Fletcher Construction has been fined $45,000 for breaching workplace safety rules on the Hotel Grand Chancellor demolition site.

The site in central Christchurch was inspected by the Department of Labour after a demolition worker fell about 2.8m from a ladder on the building's 24th floor on January 20.

The company pleaded guilty last month, ahead of the sentencing by Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave today.

It admitted failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees at work, particularly relating to a fall from height.

Judge Neave said: "This seems to have been a systems failure, rather than an absence of systems. Essentially, it is an employer's responsibility to be constantly vigilant."

Defence counsel Graeme Christie said the case involved Fletchers having guard rails missing on some of the site, and having plywood coverings that were not properly secured and marked "Danger, Hole below" over gaps in the floor.

There was also a damaged rung on the ladder which the employee had been using when he fell.

He said the company took the matter seriously and senior officials were at court for the sentencing.

Labour Department prosecutor Alex Leulu said the workplace safety legislation imposed a preventive approach to ensuring that employees were safe.

Given the number of people working on the 28-floor demolition site, the breaches meant that all those working there were exposed to these hazards.

Judge Neave said the breaches meant that there were risks of falls within the Grand Chancellor site, but it was not a case of the company providing no systems to ensure workers were protected. It seemed to have been a systems failure.

Fletchers was one of the industry leaders and it would be expected that it would have detailed knowledge of the safety standards.

"One would expect them to be a leader in this regard."

He made it clear that the company was not being prosecuted for the worker's fall, but for the safety breaches on the site.

The company's safety record indicated it was a responsible employer.

"This is an unfortunate departure from the high standard they have set themselves."

The Press