The District Court has convicted a not for profit charity following a serious injury to one of its workers in an unguarded machine. 

The employer is a charity providing employment opportunities to mainly disabled people in the Southland community.  The worker injured was one of the supervisors and was injured when they ignored safety procedures and climbed into a machine.  They became trapped in the blades of the machine and suffered serious leg injuries.

The District Court decided to discharge the charity without conviction because the charity had taken its health and safety responsibilities very seriously and had engaged an expert in the field to undertake annual audits of its health and safety procedures.  That expert had failed to pick up the need for a guard on this particular part of the machine and the employer did not realise that a guard was required on this particular part of the machine because it never expected any employee to climb into that machine.

The Court said that this was not a case where an employer had ignored its responsibilities, but the employer in this case had taken them seriously, had put in place operating procedures to avoid accidents and had engaged experts to assist it with that process.  All of those actions, however failed to prevent the accident and a guard on that part of the machine was required.  A guard was able to be installed within an hour of the accident. 

The Court emphasised that the discharge without conviction (the first reported discharge without conviction under the Act) was not to be taken as a precedent for other cases as the facts here were very abnormal and that normally convictions will be entered.

The employer had already paid the employee quite a substantial amount of reparation and was ordered to pay an additional $10,000 reparation.  No fine or costs were imposed on the employer because of their charitable status and the fact that they had no money to pay any fine or penalties.  The imposition of such a fine would have merely put all of the disabled people employed at the workplace out of work.




Alan Knowsley
Health & Safety and Employment Lawyer
Wellington