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1.5 Million Reasons to Take Safety Seriously

Published September 11, 2017 (last updated November 18, 2020) -

Employers have been put on notice that even the most basic safety system, properly implemented and managed, can save their company from a six figure fine which is likely to be the new norm.

After 18 months of operation, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been used for the first time against an employer for safety breaches.

The employer, a plastics manufacturer in Palmerston North, was made aware of safety concerns six weeks before an employee was injured by a machine. The employee was left with only his thumb and half a forefinger after the devastating hand injury.

Despite being made aware of the concerns earlier, the employer did not take any action to address the danger to workers and has been prosecuted by WorkSafe for the failure to act.

The judge in the case originally suggested a fine of between $400,000 and $600,000 despite WorkSafe suggesting a starting point of $900,000. However, under the legislation this employer faced the prospect of a $1.5 million fine, which is significantly higher than previous maximum fines of $40,000.

While the employer has ended with a $100,000 fine and ordered to pay $37,500 for emotional harm, this sentencing and the tough stance from WorkSafe is an indication of what employers can expect.

Employers should take this as a warning and ensure that they have a safety system in place and activated.

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Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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