Worksafe New Zealand v Ministry of Social Development [2016] NZDC 12806

Published 12 September 2016

Worksafe New Zealand prosecution — workplace shooting — failing to take all practicable steps to ensure safety of employees — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 — Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, ss 6 and 50 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Waimea Sawmillers Ltd [2016] NZHC 915. The Court was required to assess what security arrangement was appropriate at the WINZ Ashburton office on 1 September 2014, when Russell John Tully entered the building and fatally shot two employees. The key question was whether the hazard of client-initiated violence was reasonably predictable and if so, whether the defendant took all practicable steps to address the hazard. The defendant having pled guilty to a charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure employee’s safety (ss 6 and 50) admitted failing to take steps (b)-(f) in Appendix 1. However, the defendant denied practicable step (a) that there should have been no physically unrestricted access by clients to the staff working area. It was found reasonably predictable that client-initiated violence could manifest in a client being assaultive with or without a weapon (other than a firearm) and that physical restrictions on client access to the staff working area were a reasonably practicable step in response. The result was that the disputed practicable step was proven beyond reasonable doubt. However, it was found that a client carrying out an attack with a firearm was not reasonably predictable, and further that Mr Tully's specific attack could not have been predicted. No causal link between the failure to take the practicable step, and the harm caused by Mr Tully, was proven beyond reasonable doubt. Judgment Date: 9 September 2016.