New Zealand Law Society - WorkSafe accepts enforceable undertaking over school play accident

WorkSafe accepts enforceable undertaking over school play accident

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WorkSafe New Zealand has accepted an enforceable undertaking from the St Kentigern Trust Board following an incident in which two students were injured during an April 2016 production of Sweeney Todd at the Auckland school.

In one scene, two characters were being shaved by Sweeney Todd. After being shaved there was a simulation of these characters having their throats cut. The two actors received very serious lacerations to their throats, resulting in them being taken to hospital.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that the board breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) by failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of students was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the business or undertaking.

This is the first time WorkSafe has used an enforceable undertaking, a provision under the Act, which can be considered as an alternative to prosecution.

WorkSafe General Manager Operations and Specialist Services, Brett Murray, said the decision to accept an enforceable undertaking was appropriate as this was a serious but isolated incident.

“We have carefully considered the impact of this incident and the wishes of the three victims and their families.

“The St Kentigern Trust Board has taken responsibility and accountability for its breach of the law and is taking a number of actions to address the issues that led to this serious incident. Through this enforceable undertaking a range of steps will be completed.”

Under the enforceable undertaking, the St Kentigern Trust Board has:

  • Accepted full responsibility for the incident and the harm which was caused as a result;
  • Committed to a restorative justice process with the victims of the offending, including the payment of reparation as an outcome;
  • Taken steps to improve health and safety within the wider education sector, through the development of health and safety guidance and the building and delivery of training, for the benefit of schools nationwide.

The full enforceable undertaking, together with WorkSafe’s reasons for its decision, is available on the Worksafe website.

WorkSafe will continue to monitor compliance of this enforceable undertaking.

Businesses more engaged with safety issues, says minister

Meanwhile, the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister, Michael Woodhouse, says businesses are responding responsibly to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

“Today marks the one year anniversary since the biggest reform of health and safety legislation in more than 20 years and there are positive signs that both attitudes and behaviours towards health and safety are beginning to shift,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“While the reforms, of which the Health and Safety at Work Act was one part of, are still being bedded in, we are on track to meet the Government’s target of a 25% reduction in workplace deaths and injuries by 2020.

“Businesses and employers are more engaged with health and safety and understand that sound health and safety practices are good for business and make for a more productive workforce.

“It’s also encouraging to hear that businesses are having increasingly positive interactions with WorkSafe a year after the Act came into force.

“The WorkSafe Service Excellence Survey shows that three out of four surveyed have made changes to workplace practices after interactions with WorkSafe, and two out of three have also used WorkSafe’s health and safety guidance.”