An employer has pleaded guilty and been fined over $256,000 following the death of an employee at work. The employee was standing on a raised platform when he had an epileptic fit and fell 2.3 metres. He suffered severe injuries and later died.

The employer was charged with failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to manage the risks in the work place.

The District Court Judge found that the employer had harnesses on site for the platform, but did not train all of their employees on how to use them. The particular employee had also been seen on the platform without a harness on multiple occasions.  The employer was aware that the employee was prone to seizures.

The Judge held that reasonable steps would have included adequate training for the use of harnesses and monitoring the processes undertaken by employees.

The employer accepted their fault in the incident and pleaded guilty. The judgment concerned what level of fine to impose, with a starting point of $427,500 as the breach was of a medium culpability level.

In sentencing the employer, the Court considered what reparation should be paid to the victim’s family, whether further orders should be made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and an overall assessment of the proportionality of the sentencing to the breach made.

In this case, the Court ordered reparation of $50,000 to be paid to the victim’s family for emotional harm suffered because of the incident.

The Judge held that there were no factors which should lead to an increase of the starting point of $427,500. However, there were some mitigating factors. These included that fact that if the employee had not had an epileptic episode, which was out of the employer’s control, he likely would not have fallen at all, or could have at least protected himself.

The employer had also shown significant remorse, voluntarily paying the victim’s family reparation. They also had no previous safety breaches.

The Court reduced the fine to $256,500, with an additional $50,000 to be paid for reparation and over $13,000 in legal costs.

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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors