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WorkSafe New Zealand v Sullivan Packaging Ltd [2017] NZDC 12092

Published 25 October 2017

Sentencing — breach of Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, ss 6 and 50 (1) (a) — Department of Labour v Hanham & Philp Contractors Limited [2008] 6 NZELR 79. The defendant company was sentenced having pleaded guilty to two charges. In relation to the first charge, an employee carried out maintenance on an S15 machine. He took a number of safety measures, including screwing down a thumbscrew to prevent one of the two platens from falling, however he failed to do this in respect of the second platen. The second platen descended whilst the victim was working on the machine and trapped him under a load of approximately 80kg. The victim suffered a fatal heart attack the following day. How the victim came to be inside of the machine was disputed. The court was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim had not suffered a heart attack caused by an underlying serious health condition, which caused him to fall into the machine before it descended on him. The court further found that the crush weight of 80kg would not cause a heart attack in the average person and that the primary cause of death was the victim's underlying serious health condition. In respect of the second (representative) charge, a WorkSafe inspection revealed that the defendant company had been operating two machines with the interlock systems disabled which had the potential to expose unguarded moving parts. In assessing a starting point, the court took a global approach, taking into account the practical steps that the defendant company had failed to take and the fact that the machines that were the subject of the second charge had similar issues in the past — that had led to a work injury. Mitigating factors included the defendant company's offer to pay reparation, co-operation, remedial actions undertaken, a lack of previous convictions and the entry of guilty pleas to the charges. In respect of each charge, the defendant company was fined $26,000 and ordered to pay the agreed reparation figure of $20,000 to the victim's family. Judgment Date: 7 June 2017.