A company fined $116,000 over a workplace death is likely to be taking a second look at its in-house maintenance procedures. Roy Chan was tragically killed at the end of 2013 when he was crushed by the crane he was carrying out maintenance on. Mr Chan was greasing the crane when he inadvertently activated a remote control he was wearing, causing the crane’s boom to swing into him. Auckland District Court Judge Tony Fitzgerald identified two ‘simple steps’ that could have prevented Mr Chan’s death:
- the crane’s power take-off should have been turned off
- workers should have been instructed not to wear remote controls during cleaning and maintenance work.
Although this fine may be considered serious by some, it pales in comparison with what is to come. Under the current health and safety legislation, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, a company failing to take ‘all practicable steps’ to ensure safety is liable to a fine not exceeding $250,000. This falls far short of even the lowest penalty in new legislation, which will come into force on 4 April 2016.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 introduces a three tier system of offences for health and safety breaches:
- Category 1 is for offences of ‘reckless conduct’ in respect of a health and safety duty and carries a maximum penalty of $3 million for a company and $600,000 for an individual or five years imprisonment, or both.
- Category 2 is for offences involving a failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes someone to risk of serious harm. The maximum fine for a company will be $1.5 million and for an individual will be $300,000 or up to five years imprisonment.
- Category 3 is for offences concerning a failure to comply with a health and safety duty. The maximum penalty for a company will be $500,000 and $100,000 for an individual.
Hopefully these escalated penalties will give companies the push they need to put a review of safety procedures on the top of their New Year resolutions.