Inquest hears of poor safety standards at Gloriavale

One of the photos Sincere Standtrue's family have put on display at the inquest in Greymouth....
Family photos of Sincere Standtrue have been displayed at the inquest. Pool photo: Joanne Naish/The Press
By Niva Chittock

The first witness in the inquest into the death of a Gloriavale man says the community's paint shop where he worked failed to consistently uphold health and safety standards.

Sincere Standtrue died aged 20 in Christchurch Hospital in November 2018, following nine days of ICU care.

An inquest into his death began in Greymouth District Court yesterday, to determine the cause and circumstances, and whether it may have been self-inflicted.

Standtrue had worked in the community's paint shop since age 15.

It contained various industrial paints, chemicals and solvents for the painting of vehicles, buildings and machinery, as well as concert props.

Toxicology expert Dr Leo Schep told the court that photos of Gloriavale's paint shop as well as statements provided by current and former members indicated health and safety measures were not always followed.

"Overall, the picture painted - no pun intended - shows a paint shop where there was some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available yet without a culture of consistent use," he said.

"There is no spray booth or separate mixing room. The equipment, notably the half face masks, were

inappropriate for use with volatile organic solvents.

"Workers were exposed to paint fumes and fog ... When mixing paints, workers typically did not wear a mask."

Referring to one of the former workers' formal statements, Schep said the man developed an allergy to some of the chemicals, which cleared up once he stopped working in the paint shop.

Other workers said they were frequently covered in paint, felt "light-headed", had headaches or felt sick at the end of a day working there.

This reinforced "the point that workers in the community were not adequately protected from adverse organic solvent exposures that could lead to associated adverse effects", Schep said.

He also referenced a health and safety specialist who had noted the paint shop had no risk register and it was not included in Gloriavale's health and safety management system update in March 2022.

"Due to poor workplace practices, it is therefore credible that Standtrue was inadvertently exposed to volatile organic solvents, including toluene, over several years."

However, "it was very unlikely that this contributed to his death", he said.

The inquest resumes today.