Unassessed solvent used before death

Public news

New Zealand employer Coastwide Flooring Ltd has been fined NZ$105,000 (A$97,790) for breaching the country's Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, after a worker using a strong organic-solvent based adhesive was found unresponsive by a co-worker.

He died in a hospital's intensive care unit three days later.

The highly experienced Coastwide Flooring worker was using the adhesive to install carpet in a South Island building when the March 2019 incident occurred.

The Greymouth District Court heard the adhesive product was known to be a health hazard, but the employer failed to undertake a risk assessment on its use by workers.

It heard the employer relied on its experienced employees to protect themselves from safety hazards instead of implementing proper risk identification and management processes.

The Court ordered Coastwide Flooring to pay a reparation of NZ$60,000 (A$55,880) to the killed worker's family, in addition to the fine.

After the employer was sentenced today, WorkSafe New Zealand's South Island investigations manager, Steve Kelly said the employer had, "no safe system of work for working with the adhesive, particularly in relation to ventilation and the use of fans".

It failed to provide, "effective information, training and instruction for workers" on the hazardous substance, he said.

Kelly also issued a strong warning to companies not to over-rely on their experienced personnel when it came to safety issues, saying Coastwide Flooring's practices in this area were "totally unacceptable".

If members need assistance with chemical hazards and risk assessment, please contact the WR team on wr@mtasant.com.au, or on 8291 2000.