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Six Figure Warning for Employers

Published August 24, 2017 (last updated December 3, 2020) -

Failure to respond to safety concerns has seen a plastics manufacturer as the first to face a six figure fine, putting all employers on notice to get safety right.

Despite hazards being identified six weeks earlier, the company did not act to manage risks which saw the worker’s hand dragged into a machine while pouring recycled plastic on 6 April, 2016.

The maximum fine the company faced under the revised Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) was $1,500,000. While the judge in the case recommended a fine ranging between $400,000 and $600,000 for the level of culpability appropriate for this case, it was reduced to between $210,000 and $315,000 based on mitigating factors. After considering those mitigating factors, the company received a fine of $100,000 and was ordered to pay $37,500 for emotional harm.

Senior Advice Manager at Employsure, Melodi James explains: “This case is a red flag to remind employers to be deliberate, proactive, and meticulous about removing known risks in the workplace.”

“Under previous legislation, this type of injury would have attracted a maximum fine of $30,000 however, this first sentencing under the Act is an indication of the zero tolerance policy employers can expect from WorkSafe if they fail to act on safety concerns. “

“With a maximum penalty under the Health and Safety at Work Act of $1,500,000, getting it wrong is an expensive lesson employers could face.”

Ms James’ advice to employers is to “resolve workplace health and safety risks as soon as identified. If they cannot be resolved immediately, workers should not be exposed – that means removing machinery or instructing workers to cease its use.”

“Employers should take this as a warning that even the most basic system, properly implemented and managed, can save their company from a six figure fine which is likely to be the new norm.”

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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