Board of trustees ordered to pay $100k after school scaffold fall causing brain injury

The board of trustees of a Tokoroa high school has been ordered to pay $100,000 in reparation after a teacher and student were injured in a fall.

A file image of a courtroom coat of arms. Source: 1 NEWS

WorkSafe said in a statement today that the incident took place in June of 2018 when the teacher and student were using a mobile scaffold to set up lighting equipment at Forest View High School's auditorium.

The scaffold tipped over when it was moved, and they fell from the 3.9 metre platform onto the ground, and both were knocked unconscious.

They suffered serious lacerations, fractures and brain injuries.

WorkSafe said the school had failed to ensure the safety of the teacher and student, and that they had not developed a safe system of working with the mobile scaffold.

WorkSafe's chief inspector investigations Hayden Mander said that "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".

The board of trustees was sentenced at Tokoroa District Court yesterday, where a health and safety project order was made under section 155 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in place of a fine.

Reparation of $100,000 was also ordered.

The project order requires the board to present a safety presentation at the National Conference of the School Trustees Association in 2020, and to publish a safety article for New Zealand's online school bulletin He Pitopito Kōrero.

In a statement, a board of trustees spokesperson said the board "acknowledges 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.

"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 co-operated 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."