A 19-year-old building apprentice was killed on a Bay of Plenty worksite after being crushed by 350kg of timber framing.

The tragic incident occurred in March 2022 when Ethan Perham-Turner was working at a residential building site in Ōmokoroa, near Tauranga.

A WorkSafe investigation found the heavy frames were being manually installed onsite, and a temporary support brace was removed just prior to the accident, increasing the risk.

One frame knocked into another, causing it to fall on the 19-year-old. His death came just four months into his apprenticeship.

At the time, the teenager was working for Inspire Building, who provided building labour for Thorne Group — the project’s main contractor.

WorkSafe charged both companies with failing to comply with their duty to ensure the health and safety of their workers, exposing them to risk of death or serious injury.

It said both companies should have “consulted each other on the framing installation plan and ensured a mechanical aid (such as a Hiab crane truck) was used”.

Yesterday, both companies were sentenced at the Tauranga District Court, having pleaded guilty in October.

Thorne Group was fined $210,000 and ordered to pay $130,000 of reparations to Perham-Turner’s family — with an additional $15,072 set to go to another apprentice.

Inspire Building was fined $30,000 due to “financial incapacity”.

WorkSafe’s area investigation manager Paul West labelled the death 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,” West said.

He said the frame should have been mechanically lifted, “given its weight”.

“This can come at little to no extra cost. In this case, the supplier delivering the framing had a Hiab and could have lifted it into place if asked.”

West then went on to blast the construction industry as a whole, saying it’s “unacceptable” that companies “are not identifying the risks and providing workers with a safe workplace”.

“WorkSafe has seen other similar incidents where workers handling large or heavy frames have been paralysed or killed.

“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,” he said.

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