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WorkSafe says Take Immediate Action to Manage Known Risks

Friday 1 September, 2017 11:21

We would like to update you on a recent communication from WorkSafe NZ with regard to:

  • managing the risks within your business
  • plus a recent prosecution under the new Health & Safety at Work Act 2015.

 We believe it is important to take note of the health & safety failures identified in the WorkSafe investigation and the level of fines and reparations considered by the court for this prosecution.  There is a very clear message in this.

 

WorkSafe NZ says “Take immediate action to manage known risks”

WorkSafe say; “Businesses must immediately take action to manage their known risks - identifying and listing them is not enough”   

This recommendation follows the first sentencing under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 of a small North Island plastic recycler and manufacturer, for health and safety breaches, after a worker’s hand was dragged into a machine while pouring recycled plastic into it.

Representatives for the company appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on 23 May 2017 for sentencing, and in the Courts judgment released in August, the court fined the company $100,000 and ordered reparation of $37,500.

WorkSafe General Manager Operations and Specialist Services, Brett Murray, said, “The lesson here is to fix machinery as soon as risks are identified. If you can’t fix it, then take it out of service until it is safe to use.

The company identified issues with the guarding on this machine six weeks before the incident, and yet at the time of the incident, nothing had been done to guard, or isolate the machine.  

“The failure of the company to take action to this known risk left their employee with a life-long injury. Sadly, it could have been avoided by acting quickly and guarding the machine properly,” said Mr Murray. 

Three key factors were identified during the Worksafe investigation:

  • the company had inadequate systems for identifying and managing risks
  • that their Safe Operating Procedures (SOP’s) were outdated
  • their policies and processes for training workers were lacking, and
  • key safety features such as emergency stop buttons within reach of the operators were absent.

At a recent joint ACC presentation, health and safety lawyer Duncan Cottrell said,Paper work is important. Cottrell stressed lawyers cannot help employers without evidence of planning and implementation of good health and safety practices.

Prosecution & Fines

The judge recommended a fine start point of between $400,000 and $600,000 for the level of culpability appropriate for this case. This was reduced to between $210,000 and $315,000 based on mitigating factors:

  • The judge set the fine in the range of $275,000 but reduced it to a final fine of $100,000 based on the company’s ability to pay
  • The court ordered reparation of $37,500 for emotional harm
  • WorkSafe suggested that a starting point of $900,000 was appropriate
  • The maximum penalty under the Act is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000
  • The company was charged under Section 36 (1a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:
    • A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking.

Under the old Health and Safety in Employment Act fines for machine guarding cases ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average.