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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters


From the courts

Rangiora Carpets Ltd was fined $157,500 for breaching s36(1)(a) of the HSW Act 2015 and ordered to pay reparations of $20,000 after an employee fell 2.5m from an unconsented mezzanine floor through a false ceiling, suffering significant injuries. The risk of a fall from height had not been identified and no barrier was in place to keep people clear of the false ceiling (Christchurch DC, 5 October 2017).

WorkSafe has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Metropolitan Waste (Waikato) Ltd after it was found to have breached s36 of the HSW Act. A worker operating a tin can baler suffered degloving and a fracture of his wrist when the baler press came down on his hand and forearm. The company will, among other things, redesign its SOPs to be more visual, update its traffic management plan for the site, join the Waste Management Institute of NZ and attend its annual conference to share its experience, and produce a video to demonstrate the effects on staff of a major safety incident. The company has already joined NZISM, and two senior managers have visited six facilities in the same sector to discuss health and safety (WorkSafe NZ, 6 October 2017).

McKee-Fehl Constructors Ltd was fined $39,500 for a breach of the HSE Act and ordered to pay reparations of $58,421 after a contractor at a Wellington demolition site fell 3.9m and suffered serious head injuries. Workers on the site were using fall restraint harnesses but it was found the training and supervision of their use of harnesses was inadequate. More broadly, the company had failed to manage the hazard of a fall from height. The incident happened a few days before the HSW Act came into effect (Wellington DC, 26 October 2017).

Broadspectrum (New Zealand) Ltd was fined $42,000 for a breach of s163D of the Electricity Act 1992 and ordered to pay reparation of $17,000 after a worker received an electric shock of up to 10,000 volts while standing on top of an electricity substation in Islington, Christchurch. He suffered burns to an arm and an exit wound. The company had not provided the correct testing equipment for the job, and lacked a safe operating procedure for the task. He had been provided with the wrong testing clips and had been instructed to stand on top of the transformer (Christchurch DC, 8 November 2017).

The Tasman Tanning Company Ltd was fined $380,000 for a breach of s36 of the HSW Act and ordered to pay reparation of $18,000 after a forklift driver lost consciousness twice when he was exposed to hydrogen sulphide gas, resulting in concussion and injuries to his face and nose. The gas is a known hazard in the tanning industry. Four workers at its other Whanganui plant were rendered unconscious in a similar incident in 2012. Despite improvements implemented at that time, the latest incident showed multiple failures in training, in provision of personal gas monitors, in communications at shift changes, and in operating procedures (Wanganui DC, 27 October 2017). This is the fourth conviction under the HSW Act and the highest fine yet imposed under it.

WorkSafe has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Zespri International Ltd following the death of an orchard worker in May 2016. The regulator says the company’s breach of s36(1) of the HSW Act was not directly causative of the woman’s death, and that three other parties have been charged. The EU comes with a cost of at least $249,500 and recognises the company’s central place in the kiwifruit industry. Its provisions include reparation to the victim’s family, H&S management training for senior managers, H&S presentations to growers, audits of orchard mapping and induction processes, funding industry research into relevant safety issues, and sponsoring/promoting the Horticultural Industry Health and Safety Forum (WorkSafe NZ, 30 October 2017).

COMPANY TOOK “DELIBERATE RISKS”

A truck leasing company that a judge said took a deliberate risk by allowing “inherently unsuitable” vehicles to continue being used for rubbish collection, even though they were at the end of their working lives and clearly in poor repair, has received a penalty of almost $160,000.

Truck Leasing Ltd (TLL) appeared for sentence before Judge Robert Ronayne (Auckland DC, 13 October 2017) after being earlier convicted by him under s18A of the HSE Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that a truck it had leased to Onyx was maintained so as to be safe for its intended use.

The charge related to an incident in August 2015 when the truck’s brakes failed on a steep hill, causing a crash that killed the 19-year-old rubbish runner, Jane Devonshire.

Three other parties – Onyx, Auckland Council and the truck’s service provider NP Dobbe Maintenance – had previously admitted charges in relation to the incident and been fined a total of $120,000 (North Shore DC, 21 October 2016).

Judge Ronayne ordered TLL to pay $11,000 to the driver (name suppressed) for the emotional harm that prevented him returning to driving work until almost two years after the crash, and to reimburse the other three parties by $36,309, being a quarter of their total reparation already paid.

Counsel for TLL argued that the company’s involvement with the trucks had been “essentially administrative”, with no day-to-day access or control, so it could not have known about the poor condition of the trucks and should therefore be regarded as a secondary offender, with a level of culpability similar to that of Auckland Council.

The judge said it was “simply unrealistic” for TLL to deny knowledge of the trucks’ issues with roadworthiness, and its continued attempts to do so “fly in the face of my detailed factual findings.”

“The reality is the defendant knew very well of the safety shortcomings and, in my view, took deliberate risks,” he said. “Cost-consciousness overrode any safety concerns, and only lip service was paid to obvious safety issues.

“The failures were wide-ranging, and the risk and seriousness of likely harm from failing to maintain truck brakes blindingly obvious.

“The defendant’s behaviour contributing to this tragedy has been ongoing for a considerable period of time, and was profit-driven.”

He declined to give a discount for a previous good record on the grounds that the company had not taken lessons from two previous truck accidents involving brake failure, one of which was a fatality, and described the attempts at restorative justice as “little and late”.

He fined the company $110,000.

Thomson Reuters

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