Contractor locked in cupboard at Whakatāne council

6:51 pm on 29 October 2020

A hydrogen gas vent being incorrectly installed, contractors hitting electrical wire, and a contractor being locked in a cupboard were the most notable health and safety incidents recorded at Whakatāne District Council recently.

After an energy audit, Whakatane Aquatic and Fitness Centre carbon emissions were reduced, saving the council tens of thousands of dollars in the process

Two of the incidents occurred while contractors were undertaking work at the Whakatāne Aquatic and Fitness Centre. Photo: LDR / Charlotte Jones

Senior health, safety, and wellbeing advisor Sandy Barnes outlined the three incidents to councillors at an organisational performance committee meeting yesterday.

Two of the incidents occurred while contractors were undertaking work at the Whakatāne Aquatic and Fitness Centre. The outdoor pool is currently being fitted with a roof.

Barnes said in her report the incorrect hydrogen gas venting situation was discovered when contractors were removing an old chlorine unit.

The chlorine unit converts salt into chlorine and produces a small amount of hydrogen gas during this process.

Usually the gas by-product would be vented outside, however, contractors found it had instead been venting into the small roof space above the chlorine room, which could have led to a build-up of hydrogen gas in the roof space.

Hydrogen gas is extremely flammable and can be explosive.

Barnes said contractors had since installed a new vent which did vent to outside.

In the second incident, contractors working on the new outdoor pool area caught an electrical cable in their drill while blade piling and the cable was pulled from the switchboard.

There were no injuries and WorkSafe was notified but took no action.

In a separate incident, a contractor became locked in a cupboard outside of business hours due to a faulty door handle. The contractor was forced to damage the door in order to free themselves.

Barnes said an investigation was conducted and the incident was used as a learning opportunity for staff to highlight how several small oversights caused a much larger event.

During the reporting period from July to September there were six other events that resulted in injuries to council staff. Only one, a shoulder injury, required medical treatment. The others required first aid or no treatment.

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