Toolbox meeting could have prevented broken leg

Lookout! Issue 38, July 2018

A dredge operator had a costly reminder of the value of health and safety (‘toolbox’) meetings when his leg was broken in two places while man-handling a 200kg face plate.
engine room
Maritime New Zealand © 2020
A fishing trip came to a dramatic end after a skipper was unable to access a fire extinguisher.

The dredge was alongside an East Coast port when the man decided to rotate the face plate for cleaning. It had earlier been removed with the help of a chain block to enable repair work on the seal of the pump’s main shaft. The hefty face plate had been tethered to a hydraulic tank in the engine room, while the anchor plate was left in the passageway where staff walked over it.

PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) are required under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) to hold a toolbox meeting before commencing work. But the company that owns the dredge employed an engineering firm to assist with the repair – and did not hold a meeting with the engineering firm and all staff members (including the victim) to make everyone aware of any possible risks.

While maintenance was being carried out on the pump, two men in the engine room were preparing equipment for reassembly. When the main operator went to rotate the one-metre diameter face plate, the other man told him it was extremely heavy. The victim started to lose control of it and stepped backwards, tripping on the anchor plate. The face plate landed on the man’s right leg, breaking it in two places.

A company investigation recommended reviewing the procedure for toolbox meetings and how they are documented. The injured man acknowledged he should have used the correct lifting device to move the face plate, and that the anchor plate he had walked over multiple times should have been removed from the walkway and working area.



  • Failure to conduct a health and safety or toolbox meeting with all staff members that were operating on the repair and also between the two PCBUs contributed to this accident.
  • Better decisions are made when everyone in the workplace shares their knowledge and experience and takes responsibility for a safe working environment.
  • Under HSWA “overlapping duties” means that responsibility for health and safety is shared by the businesses or PCBUs that share a workplace.
  • The injured man was not involved with the planning of the work by the engineering company, and was not involved with the removal of the face plate. He did not know that a chain block was needed the first time it was removed.
  • The face plate had an estimated weight of 200 kgs, and should have been identified as a hazard. Employees should have been made aware of such hazards. The anchor plate, with its raised edge of five centimetres, should not have been left in the walkway.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires that workers as well as maritime operators (PCBUs) and ships’ masters (officers) have responsibilities for health and safety. This means the employee should have also taken responsibility – by considering his well-being, and that of others around him, before attempting a dangerous task by himself.

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