Health and Safety

Apprentice builder killed by falling framing

3 May 2024

3 minutes to read

The death of a teenager on a Bay of Plenty building site is yet another example of why the construction sector needs to up its game, WorkSafe New Zealand says. 

Ethan Perham-Turner was killed when timber framing weighing 350 kilograms fell on him at a residential building site in Ōmokoroa in March 2022. The 19-year-old was just four months into an apprenticeship with Inspire Building Limited at the time. 

A WorkSafe investigation found the risk was heightened by the framing being manually installed around the site, and a temporary support brace being removed just prior to the fatal incident. When one frame knocked another, it fell on the teenage apprentice. 

Inspire was providing building labour for the main contractor, Thorne Group. Both were charged for health and safety failures in relation to the death. The businesses should have consulted each other on the framing installation plan and ensured a mechanical aid (such as a Hiab crane truck) was used. 

“The death of a worker so young is an indictment on the construction sector. Ethan was new to the job and new to the task of manoeuvring framing. He should have been provided with what he needed to be safe,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West. 

“The safest way would have been to mechanically lift the framing into place, given its weight."  

West says, “The high number of deaths and injuries tells us construction is a very dangerous industry. WorkSafe has seen other similar incidents where workers handling large or heavy frames have been paralysed or killed. It is unacceptable that companies are not identifying the risks and providing workers with a safe workplace. We can only hope the death of a very young apprentice might motivate the step change required to improve the sector’s health and safety performance.” 

Inspire Building Limited and Thorne Group B.O.P Limited were sentenced at Tauranga District Court on 31 January 2024. Inspire Building was only fined $30,000 due to financial incapacity, and Thorne Group was fined $210,000. Reparations of $130,000 were ordered to be paid to Ethan Perham-Turner’s family, and $15,072 to his co-worker – a fellow apprentice. 

Both entities were charged under sections 36(1)(a), s 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. 

Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including Ethan Thomas Perham-Turner, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely erecting prefabricated timber frames, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury. The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.  

How CARTERS Manufacturing can help: making it safer onsite by identifying frame weights and hazards early.  

Getting your frames and trusses or cassette floors delivered is always an exciting moment for any build, as things really start to take shape onsite – but safety must come first.  

This recent WorkSafe prosecution has highlighted that, as with any product delivery, we need to make sure as an industry that we are managing health and safety risks appropriately to avoid instances like that tragic death of the apprentice. The WorkSafe investigation found that heavy frames were being manually installed onsite, and a temporary support brace was removed causing a frame to fall.  

What process changes have been made?  

1. When you place a Manufacturing Order (MO) with CARTERS Manufacturing, you can add a weight tolerance at the detailing stage. If necessary, our team can work with you to see if frames could be split up to make the individual panel weight lighter, and therefore easier if standing the frames onsite manually. Your CARTERS Account Manager can assist when entering the job.  

2. At the detailing stage we’ll now be providing individual panel weights with the detailed drawings to assist with the hazard identification step of planning for your frame installation. From there you can determine what handling and storage risks might be present, and what process may be required to stand the frames safely. When frames are delivered to site, you’ll also receive the individual panel weights printed on the site pack.  

3. CARTERS Truck drivers are not able to assess if it’s safe to stand frames onsite using their equipment. If you think you’ll need to split frames, please let us know prior to manufacture, so together we can make suitable arrangements.  

We hope that this process change supports your efforts to minimise any health and safety risks in advance and onsite. If you have questions, please contact your CARTERS branch or Account Manager. 


News released by WorkSafe NZ on February 1 2024 here  

Find out more about safe site delivery with CARTERS. 

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