I’m not their mother ‘no excuse for lax health and safety
A Kaikoura employer who failed to provide proper eye protection has been convicted of failings that cost a young worker the sight in one eye.
Daniel Anderson, a self-employed farm fencing trader, had a 17-year-old workman chiseling when a piece of metal flew into his right eye in March 2020. Despite multiple surgeries, the teenager lost his sight of the eye.
Anderson failed to notify WorkSafe of the injury, as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2015. Several months later, the victim’s mother did so, sparking an investigation.
When a WorkSafe inspector asked Anderson if he told workers to use protective gear, his response was, “I’m not their mother and I go and get them dressed every morning.”
Anderson confirmed that he did not provide full instructions to the victim on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses, because in his own words “it was good meaning”.
Anderson also told WorkSafe that he felt it was too expensive to buy PPE, saying, “I’m too small for that kind of…keep going.”
Anderson was sentenced in Kaikoura District Court on July 15.
Judge Raoul Neave ordered the payment of $22,500 for emotional harm and consequential loss, given Anderson’s lack of insurance and inability to pay a fine.
WorkSafe’s national director of investigations, Hayden Mander, says the employer’s comments reflect an outdated, unacceptable and cavalier attitude.
“A young man at the start of his working life now has severely impaired vision. It’s amazing for an employer not to understand the seriousness of the situation,” says Mander.
“The cost of health and safety is part of the cost of doing business. The worker should be provided with appropriate PPE, including eye protection, and be required to wear it when using a chisel and hammer or any other task where there is a risk of eye injury.
Workers who are vulnerable due to age, inexperience, or employment conditions may be less likely to question health and safety practices or speak up if they are unsure.
“Beyond the obvious health and safety shortcomings in this case, it is both illegal and morally wrong for an employer of any size not to inform WorkSafe of an incident such as this. No employer is exempt,” Mander says.