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NZ school board in court after teacher and pupil seriously injured in scaffold fall

A school board of trustees has been ordered to pay NZ$100,000 (£49,338) after a teacher and student were knocked unconscious and left with brain damage after a mobile scaffold being used to set up lights in the school's auditorium toppled over.

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Mobile scaffolding was erected in Forest View High School’s auditorium to assist with setting up lighting for plays and assemblies. In June 2018 a teacher and student fell from the 3.9 metre high working platform of the scaffold after it tipped over as it was being moved. Both were knocked unconscious and suffered serious lacerations, fractures and brain injuries.

The New Zealand health and safety regulator WorkSafe said the school had not developed a safe system of work around the use of the mobile scaffold.

“There were no policies or procedures in place around working from heights, or for student involvement in the use of the scaffold,” said chief inspector of investigations, Hayden Mander.

“With no safe systems in place students and staff were exposed to a very real risk of injury and this incident could have had catastrophic consequences.”

Last week at Tokoroa District Court, the judge imposed a health and safety project order under s 155 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in place of a fine. Reparation of $100,000 was also ordered.

The order requires the trustees to prepare and present a safety presentation at the National Conference of the School Trustees Association in 2020, with a focus on the need to develop and implement a suitable risk management system for in the classroom and extra-curricular activities. As well as this they are also required to prepare a safety article for New Zealand’s online school bulletin, He Pitopito Korero.

Forest View High School Board of Trustees issued a collective statement, acknowledging the seriousness of this incident and its impact on the victims, their families and the wider community.

"The Board deeply regrets the harm caused and acknowledges that no injury to any student or employee is acceptable," the statement said.

"As a result of the incident, the board apologised to the student, teacher, and their families and ensured that it provided ongoing assistance to them, including reparation payments and managing and supporting their return to work and study.

"The board has also fully cooperated with the authorities throughout the investigation and prosecution and taken a number of remedial actions to ensure such incidents do not occur again, including investing significantly in the redevelopment of the school's health and safety system, including its risk assessment and risk management systems and the training and supervision of employees working at heights.

"The board's focus is on learning from this experience to ensure it continues to improve the safety of its workplace while providing a high standard of education for its community."



Kellie is a freelance writer and former online editor of the Health and Safety at Work website.

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