Failure to ensure workplace health and safety may expose employers, not just to steep fines under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, but also to criminal liability.

Under the Act, where breaches result in serious harm to employees, (or even could result in serious harm), an employer can be fined up to $500,000 or even imprisonment for up to 2 years.

WorkSafe New Zealand are the agency charged with enforcing the Act and prosecuting breaches.  In addition to WorkSafe using criminal prosecutions against offending employers, workers groups have used the Act to seek criminal penalties where WorkSafe have not.  The Council of Trade Unions has, on at least two occasions, taken up prosecutions themselves and successfully obtained criminal convictions against employers where death has resulted in the workplace.

The fact that employers  can be prosecuted in the criminal courts, as well as suffer penalties for breach of severe fines to the point of $500,000 should put employers on high alert as to the need to ensure health and safety is maintained in the work place and work place hazards, both physical and psychological, are eliminated or best reduced.

Rainey Collins can provide advice to employers on their obligations under Health & Safety and other employment laws, and work with them to ensure compliance and reduce associated risks.