Worksafe has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Opus International Consultants Limited, trading as WSP Opus, to carry out a series of actions to avoid a repeat of the accident, which happened in February 2017. Scaffolding collapsed underneath Auckland’s Panmure Bridge and six workers fell into the water below them. Although one was trapped on the scaffolding, all escaped the scene without serious injury.
WSP Opus was the engineer to the contract for the maintenance work on the bridge. Its responsibilities included contract management, surveillance and quality assurance in relation to the bridge restoration works.
An enforceable undertaking is an agreement between WorkSafe and a duty holder following a breach of the Health & Safety at Work Act. The agreement details a series of actions that WSP Opus will undertake and is legally binding. The actions include the development of guidance and a commitment to share lessons from the accident in an industry publication.
WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident found that WSP Opus had failed to ensure the health and safety of workers whose activities in carrying out work were influenced or directed by WSP Opus. This included failing to notify the contractor that it required information about the scaffold load calculations and design drawings, and failing to halt work on the site until this had been adequately provided.
Under the enforceable undertaking, WSP Opus committed to initiatives including:
- the development of a practice guide and provision of training for its employees on the guide;
- undertaking of a full legal review of WSP Opus health and safety framework;
- publishing an external guide on NZS 3910 (New Zealand’s official standard for the conditions of contract for building and civil engineering construction) and disseminating it to a wider audience;
- publishing an external article about the incident and what WSP Opus has learnt in an industry publication;
- making a donation to the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management;
- providing work experience for students from Auckland University to attend training on health and safety and the 3910 contract, for two years.
Worksafe said that the enforceable undertaking has a total expenditure of at least about US$67,000.
WSP Opus managing director Ian Blair said: “WSP Opus takes health and safety extremely seriously and values the protection of our workers (including contractors) above everything else. This is a timely reminder in following due process and procedure to ensure the safety of workers on site, and WSP Opus will gladly execute on the actions under the enforceable undertaking to help prevent the recurrence of instances such as this.”
WorkSafe’s head of specialist interventions Simon Humphries said: “This enforceable undertaking highlights the need for responsibilities to be delegated and understood in projects involving multiple parties. WSP Opus had an overarching responsibility for the health and safety of all the contractors bought in to complete the job.”
He added: “Had the scaffolding collapsed over concrete – instead of water – the resulting harm to workers might have been very different. This is no lucky escape for WSP Opus though, and the enforceable undertaking agreed upon by WorkSafe will hold them to account for their failings.”