Company fined after worker seriously injured in 5 metre fall

Issue 50 – June 2013

Serious injuries sustained by a Christchurch labourer have resulted in a fine for his employer after he fell five metres from an unstable work platform. Berger Heating Limited was fined $52,000 but this was reduced by the Judge to $15,000 given the company's financial situation. The company was also ordered to pay reparations of $15,000 in the Christchurch District Court following the incident on 20 June 2012.

The court heard that two employees of Berger Heating Limited were working on a property at Maffeys Road, which required repairs to the flue, as part of the clean heat programme. 'Berger Heating was sent guidelines for working at height and on ladders by the project management office, however they disregarded them,' says the Ministry's Canterbury Rebuild Health and Safety Programme Director Kathryn Heiler.

'There was already scaffolding in place around the property, so the company chose to use a stepladder on the top platform of scaffolding to reach the roof. This was completely unsafe and would cause a 'see-saw' effect when weight was placed on the top of the ladder.'

As the employee was getting down from the roof, the stepladder 'kicked out' and he fell approximately 5 metres. He sustained head injuries and six fractured bones – a broken eye socket, nose, leg, kneecap, ankle, and wrist.

'Safety must be a priority in the Canterbury rebuild if we are to avoid incidents like these, which nearly cost a worker his life,' Heiler says. 'Falls from height happen far too often on construction sites and that's why the Ministry has a Preventing Falls from Height campaign in place. Between July 2012 and January 2013, health and safety inspectors visited 150 construction sites in Canterbury and took 70 enforcement actions.

'There are clear guidelines on best practice for working at height in New Zealand – it is crucial employers and read and understand these, and put steps in place to prevent serious accidents.'

Berger Heating Limited pleaded guilty to one breach of Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992

→ Read the Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand (

→ Download the Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand

→ More information on the Preventing Falls from Height ( campaign and Best Practice Guidelines for working at height in New Zealand is available

→ The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 ( is available online

Summarised from a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Labour Information media release, 3 May 2013.


Published in consumer and occupational safety.