A contractor working on a Wellington wind farm did not do enough to stop a machine from falling down a steep slope, killing one of its workers, a court was told today.
Transfield Services Ltd has been defending a charge this week at the Wellington District Court of failing to protect its workers after an employee died in June last year.
Filipino father of four, Edwin Sarmiento, 42, was killed and Antonio Maniago seriously injured when a machine fell as they were lifting them to do line maintenance at the Makara site.
The men worked for Electrix, which had been hired by Transfield, when the Manitou telescopic handler toppled down a steep gully, and the men fell about 20m.
The Manitou is mainly used in agriculture and is similar to a forklift, but has a crane boom that lifts into the air.
In closing statements in front of Judge Tom Broadmore today, Greg La Hood, appearing for the Government’s labour group, said the company should have used suspended ladders for the men to complete the work.
Transfield also needed to ensure the Manitou was being used by a trained operator.
It was also questioned whether the machine was being used properly.
“The machine was not specifically designed to carry personnel at an elevated level,” Mr La Hood said.
The company should also have obtained information on slope limits for the Manitou, he said.
“There were limits to this machine.”
The company was working on rough terrain on uneven ground in a “difficult, complex environment and more could have been done”, Mr La Hood said.
Adrian Olney, appearing for Transfield said there were lots of uncertainties around the facts of the case.
He said there had been almost “complete disregard” for what Transfield had done and too much focus on what steps they had not done.
He said the Government’s labour group had offered many steps Transfield should have taken in a “breezy” way, such as using ladders, but there were many health and safety issues around that suggestion, which made the step not that practical.
Transfield was known for its expertise in working in difficult conditions and its high health and safety standards.
“It works at great heights everyday in rough terrain,” Mr Olney said.
If convicted, Transfield could face a $250,000 fine.
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