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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

First custodial sentence

First custodial sentence
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Publication Date:
New Zealand

Further to our report last week, a company director has been sentenced to four months home detention after a power line incident left several animals dead and posed a serious risk to people. It is the first time since the HSE Act came into force in April 1993 that someone has received a custodial sentence for a breach of the legislation. His company was fined $60,000 (Hastings DC, 12 February).

Britton Housemovers Ltd, and its director Arthur Britton, were each convicted of two charges under s6 and s15 of the HSE Act, both laid under the rarely used penalty section 49 relating to having knowledge that an action or inaction is likely to cause serious harm. Mr Britton’s charges were laid under s56 as he was a director of the company who “authorised, directed, assented to or acquiesced in” the failure of the company.

Both the company and its director were also convicted of two charges under s163C of the Electricity Act 1992 relating to breaches of the Electricity Regulations, for failing to notify, and for allowing an employee to handle a live power line without appropriate protective gear.

The charges arose from a December 2013 incident in Herbertville when the company was moving a house under Britton’s direction. The house collided with a power line, which snapped and fell onto the roof of the house. An employee used a wooden stick to move the live power line into a ditch on the roadside. The convoy moved on.

Shortly afterward a farmer and a shepherd arrived on the scene with a flock of sheep and working dogs. Six lambs, five ewes and two dogs were electrocuted. The shepherd was saved from electrocution when the farmer pulled him back as he reached out to grab the dead sheep.

They pursued the house convoy and told them what had happened. A verbal dispute ensued before a company employee returned to the ditch to put warning cones down. No one from the company reported the live lines – it was left to the farmer.

Brett Murray, WorkSafe NZ’s general manager High Hazards and Specialist Services, told Safeguard that WorkSafe had applied to the court for a custodial sentence “because of the very serious and obvious risk of harm and the fact that Mr Britton had previously been involved in a similar incident in 2011”.

He said the judge determined the degree of offending warranted 12 months in prison, but reduced the sentence to four months home detention because of specific mitigating factors.

In a press release, Murray said leaving a live line on the side of the road and not notifying anyone about it is unacceptable.

“Britton and his company did so many things wrong in this incident. Home detention and a large fine sends a clear message to others. It is also worth considering the consequences for this company if there had been a death.”

People Mentioned:
Arthur Britton; Brett Murray
Organisations Mentioned:
Britton Housemovers; WorkSafe NZ
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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