Worksafe issues notices after 3-year-old's drowning

In January, a WorkSafe New Zealand official examines the Gore sewage treatment site gate through...
In January, a WorkSafe New Zealand official examines the Gore sewage treatment site gate through which a 3-year-old boy is thought to have passed before drowning in an oxidation pond. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Worksafe has issued two improvement notices to the Gore District Council, as its investigation into the drowning of a child at a council sewage facility continues.

In January, 3-year-old Lachlan Jones was found dead in a council waste water oxidation pond in Grasslands Rd, following an extensive community search led by police.

At the time, council chief executive Steve Parry initiated a review of fencing and security around the ponds.

He said the gates were usually padlocked and there was a fence to keep stock out.

"It's taken us by surprise. How does a child scale a fence like that?" he told the Otago Daily Times.

A WorkSafe spokesman said an improvement notice was issued to a person or business asking them to address health and safety concerns in the workplace.

He said the organisation had issued two improvement notices to the Gore District Council this week, one regarding access to oxidation ponds and another with regards to safety for those working near oxidation ponds.

The first notice says the council contravenes the Health and Safety at Work Act because access can easily be gained to the oxidation ponds by members of the public, including children, exposing them to the risk of drowning and exposure to hazardous waste.

The second notice states there is "no dedicated means of escape from the Gore oxidation ponds. This exposes workers, who may inadvertently fall into the pond, to the risk of drowning".

In a statement, Mr Parry confirmed the council had received the notices from WorkSafe, which it was now addressing.

The council had three months to comply with the notices, and could also apply to review them.

"Given the tragic drowning of 3-year-old Lachlan Jones ... is still under investigation by WorkSafe and the coroner, no further comment will be made by the council," he said.

The route from the victim's Salford St home to the pond is several hundred metres of paddock bounded by a fence and the gate at Grasslands Rd.

At the time of the incident, Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said he believed the facility's fencing had been in the same configuration for at least the past 40 years.

Deer fencing was installed across the entrance to the oxidation ponds immediately after the incident.

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