13 Apr 2010

Council to pay family $50,000 over landfill death

6:45 pm on 13 April 2010

The Wellington City Council has been ordered to pay $50,000 reparation to the family of a council employee who died in what had been described as a preventable accident at the city's landfill.

Brian Taurerewa, 55, died when the 40-tonne truck he was driving slid down a steep hill at the landfill in wet weather and crashed into a bank.

Mr Taurerewa was carrying out excavation work at the southern landfill on 12 December 2008 and was crushed by the truck cab. He died of asphyxiation.

The council was sentenced in the Wellington District Court on Tuesday on one charge of breaching health and safety legislation by failing to ensure an employee's safety at work.

Judge Ian Mill ordered that $50,000 of the fine be paid to the family of Mr Taurerewa and fined the council a further $60,00.

The court was told three trucks had already slipped on the road that day and the hill may have been too steep for the truck Mr Taurerewa was driving.

Judge Mill said there were a number of communications failures between staff working with Mr Taurerewa that day, which resulted in him being on the slope in conditions which were very dangerous.

"There should have been clearer guidelines and protocols and processes for stopping the work in those conditions, or at least communicating decisions.

"The risks would have been clearer also if the gradient had of been accurately assessed and the risks more accurately judged."

Family satisfied, council to review procedures

Mr Taurerewa's sister, Carol Trinder, says the family is pleased with the sentence imposed and for all that the council has done for them since the death.

This included holding a function at his work on the anniversary of his death and placing a memorial notice in the newspaper.

The Wellington City Council has issued a written statement reiterating its sorrow and deep regret over the death.

Council chief executive Garry Poole says the death or injury of a council worker in the workplace is something they strive to avoid and Mr Taurerewa's death has prompted an extensive review of health and safety procedures throughout the council.