The importance of taking adequate steps to manage a hazard, specifically a fall from height, was highlighted last Thursday in a District Court sentencing of a Te Awamutu club.

Waipa Workingmen’s Club Incorporated was sentenced at the Te Awamutu District Court after pleading guilty to one charge under sections 16(2)(b)(ii) and 50 (1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

A female patron was seriously injured at the club in March 2015 after she fell three metres from an unguarded landing on an emergency stairway while attending a quiz night at the club’s bar.

The victim and several friends had gone out for a cigarette and used an emergency exit, and after stepping back to allow a friend to re-enter the building, the victim lost her footing and fell. She sustained serious injuries to the spine, shoulder and neck and also suffered mild traumatic brain injury.

A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found that the Waipa Workingmen’s Club had failed to identify and manage a fall from height hazard by not installing safety barriers on the landing. The club also failed to ensure the exit to the landing was appropriately marked as an emergency exit only, and it had no system in place to ensure that the exit was only used in an emergency.

The victim will receive $45,000 in court ordered reparation and Waipa Workingmen’s Club has been fined $39,375.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says given the obvious danger that the unguarded landing posed, the Waipa Workingmen’s Club should have ensured that people were not exposed to a potential fall from height.

“The victim was under the impression that the landing was safe for general use. If Waipa Workingmen’s Club had labelled the exit correctly, ensured it was properly guarded and made sure it was only used in an emergency, this incident could easily have been avoided,” says Keith Stewart.

“Patrons attending events at their local establishment should be able to trust that those in charge have processes in place to ensure safety. The last thing you should have to worry about when visiting your local club is falling off the side of a building,” Keith Stewart says.

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