Skip to Content, Skip to Navigation

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Outlook: fine

Outlook: fine
Article Type:
Publication Date:
New Zealand

MBIE's litigation manager has suggested there is plenty of scope for courts to increase the penalties imposed for breaches of the HSE Act.

Speaking at LegalSafe, Michael Hargreaves reminded delegates that in 2002 the act had been amended to increase the maximum fine to $250,000 (regardless of harm). Noting that only one percent of fines imposed from that amendment until the important Hanham and Philip High Court decision in December 2008 had exceeded $50,000, he said a significant change in fine levels might have been expected.

However, while Hanham and Philp had set out clear guidance for courts in imposing penalties, only eight percent of fines since that decision had exceeded $50,000. "There is certainly plenty of scope for further change."

In what he termed further speculation on possible areas of change, Hargreaves asked if judges were being unnecessarily distracted by the degree of harm when setting penalties. "It's comparing apples with oranges because the harm that occurs isn't proportional to the degree of failure that caused it."

Minor failures, he said, can result in significant harm, and conversely, major failures can result in no harm, simply through good fortune. Reparation, he said, is available to the courts to "fix" harm. "If reparation is intended to remediate harm caused, what relevance is harm when fixing a fine?"

Looking ahead at MBIE's own activities, he pointed to the July conviction of Canterbury Greenwaste, in which not only the company was fined but its director was separately fined $40,000. This indicated an increasing focus by MBIE on section 56 of the HSE Act - the part that deals with the duties of directors, officers and agents.

"Is there any reason why health and safety should not receive the same level of attention at board level as financial matters?"

People Mentioned:
Michael Hargeaves
Organisations Mentioned:
MBIE; Canterbury Greenwaste; Hanham and Philp
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Table of Contents