Companies fined after scaffolder suffers serious chemical burns


Two New Zealand based businesses have been sentenced for health and safety failings after a scaffolder suffered serious chemical burns to his hands.

A court in New Zealand heard how in April 2018, a steel galvanising plant based in Hamilton contracted Total Access Limited to erect and dismantle scaffolding above one of its covered galvanising tanks next to a tank of caustic soda.

While dismantling the scaffolding the scaffolder noticed the guard rails were slippery. By the time the job was complete the worker’s hands were swollen, shaking and throbbing. There were also black marks on them from chemical burns.

As a result, the scaffolder spent two months with his hands in bandages while another worker also suffered burns to his right arm, neck and shoulder.

A WorkSafe investigation found that hazardous vapour from the adjacent tank had condensed on the scaffolding causing the chemical burns when contacted by the workers.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said neither company had discussed risks posed by these hazardous chemicals thoroughly.

“Other than the risks of falling into the tanks or inhaling fumes from the tanks neither company considered the risk of these toxic vapours.

“This is a hazardous substance that is extremely harmful when it comes into contact with skin.

“It is extremely disappointing that neither company had the foresight to consider the effects these chemicals may have on workers. Businesses must engage with one another to ensure all health and safety risks are recognised before work on any job takes place.”

In a decision released on October 21, Total Access Limited was ordered to pay a fine of $165,000, while Perry Metal Protection Limited was ordered to pay a fine of $227,500.