WorkSafe Prosecution Corner


24 Oct 2018

An engineering and infrastructure company will have to spend over $100,000 on an enforceable undertaking after six workers fell from a collapsing scaffold.

The workers were completing maintenance underneath an Auckland bridge when the scaffolding collapsed and they fell into the water beneath them. One worker was trapped on the scaffolding but all escaped without serious injury.

The WorkSafe investigation into the incident found that the engineering firm had failed to ensure the health and safety of workers who were influenced or directed by its work. This included failing to notify the contractor that it required information about the scaffold load calculations and design drawings, and failing to halt work on the site until this had been provided.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions, Simon Humphries said, “This enforceable undertaking highlights the need for responsibilities to be delegated and understood in projects involving multiple parties. WSP Opus had an overarching responsibility for the health and safety of all the contractors bought in to complete the job.”

“Had the scaffolding collapsed over concrete – instead of water – the resulting harm to workers might have been very different. This is no lucky escape for WSP Opus though, and the enforceable undertaking agreed upon by WorkSafe will hold them to account for their failings.”

The engineering firm in charge of contractor management on the site has entered into an enforceable undertaking with WorkSafe, which includes:

  • Develop a practice guide and provide training for its employees on the guide.
  • Undertake a full legal review of WSP Opus health and safety framework.
  • Publish an external guide on NZS 3910 (New Zealand’s official standard for the conditions of contract for building and civil engineering construction) and disseminate this guide to a wider audience.
  • Publish an external article about the incident and what WSP Opus has learnt in an industry publication.
  • Make a donation to the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management.
  • Provide work experience for students from Auckland University to attend training on health and safety and the 3910 contract, for two years.

Key takeaway:

Safety on site is everyone’s responsibility and those managing sites will be held accountable for failing to protect workers or contractors. All businesses working together have a duty to co-operate, co-ordinate and consult.

A good tool for identifying, managing and communicating risks between businesses on site is our Site-Specific Safety Plan. Businesses managing contractors can also learn more about their responsibilities on Site Safe’s Managing Contractors course.