Incident: safety glasses not worn

Incident: safety glasses not worn

Issue 201

A young worker not wearing safety glasses received a lifelong eye injury when a wire snapped. His employer did not require glasses to be used for the task. PETER BATEMAN summarises. 


  • The work site was a commercial avocado orchard consisting of several thousand trees. 
  • Hundreds of kilometres of windbreaks had been installed to protect juvenile trees. 
  • A windbreak consists of a top and bottom high tensile wire stapled to wooden poles, with shelter cloth attached to the wires with clips. 
  • Work to install, maintain, repair and remove them was referred to as fencing work. 
  • D had been with the company for three months as a casual worker and was under supervision by P and an experienced worker, N. 


  • D and N were straining wires under the supervision of P. 
  • A wire flicked back and scratched D under the chin. 
  • P strongly advised D to wear safety glasses in future but did not report the near miss. 
  • The near miss was mentioned at a toolbox meeting a week later. 
  • Two weeks later, P asked D and N to fix a loose top wire. 
  • P had signed out safety glasses for the two men a few days earlier but did not check they took the glasses with them for this task. D did not take the glasses. 
  • D and N used wire strainers to tighten the wire. 
  • They both let go of the wire at the same time, causing a wire to penetrate D’s left eye. 
  • His significant eye injury required two operations and has left him with impaired vision.  


  • The company’s standard induction for new workers covered fruit picking and spraying but not fencing. 
  • There was no SOP for fencing tasks. 
  • The induction mentioned PPE generally but did not refer to its use for specific tasks. 
  • Competency assessment and further training was on-the-job by observation of experienced staff. 
  • Neither P nor N had received any guidance in how to supervise or train others. 
  • Wearing eye protection during fencing wasn’t a requirement. It was viewed as a personal responsibility. 
  • D had seen others – including P and N – doing fencing without safety glasses. 


  • Develop an SOP for high risk tasks and ensure it is well understood. 
  • Develop a standard way of ensuring workers are competent in specific tasks. 
  • Make use of free WorkSafe resources, like its fact sheet on supervising workers and its ‘quick guide’ on protecting workers’ eyes. 
  • Refer to NZKGI’s Best Practice Guidelines for Workplace Safety – Protection from Eye Injury in a Kiwifruit Orchard. 
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