The District Court has recently ordered a company to pay $350,000 after inadequate health and safety measures led to an employee suffering a serious brain injury.

The employee was on his third day at the job and was completing his duties unsupervised. He was operating machinery when an attachment fell on his head and shoulders, causing him to be hospitalised and suffer several strokes in the aftermath of the incident.

The employee now has difficulties with his vision and eating. Evidence showed that the company’s safety approach was “mentally done”, rather than being physically completed through written checklists or guidelines. As a result, the employee did not have the information required to do his job safely.

The Court decided that the company had failed to implement adequate health and safety measures. In New Zealand, a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers.

In this case the company failed to ensure that the risks of their work were identified, assessed and minimised. They also failed to provide the employee with information about how to undertake his duties safely, and failed to ensure that lifting material was available and used in line with best practice.

The Court decided that the company’s approach to health and safety failed to meet the legally required standards. The employee was left alone on his third day of work, with no experience in similar industries and no introduction to proper health and safety measures.

The Court ordered the employer to pay a fine of $250,000 as well as $100,000 in reparations to the employee.

There are important health and safety standards which must be met by companies. If you are unsure about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors