WorkSafe New Zealand v Fall Stop Scaffolding Ltd [2020] NZDC 3629

Published 10 June 2020

Sentencing — failing to ensure health and safety of workers — failing to ensure health and safety of other persons — scaffold — electric shock — powerlines — “Best Practice Guidelines for Working on Roofs” — “Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand” — Stumpmaster v WorkSafe New Zealand [2018] NZHC 2020 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Broad Spectrum (New Zealand) Limited [2017] NZDC 25499 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Electrix [2015] NZDC 20545 — Department of Labour v Hanham and Philp Contractors Ltd (2008) 6 NZELR 79 (HC) — WorkSafe New Zealand v Dibble [2019] NZDC 9728 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Dong Xing Group Ltd [2018] NZDC 22114 — YSB Group Limited v WorkSafe New Zealand [2019] NZHC 2570 — Mobile Refrigeration Specialists Limited v Department of Labour (2010) 7 NZELR 423 (HC) — Sentencing Act 2002, ss 8(e) & 32 — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, ss 36, 48 & 152-158. Two defendant companies appeared for sentence after pleading guilty to one charge each of failing to ensure the health and safety of workers, and one charge each of failing to ensure the health and safety of others. The charges arose from an incident where the defendants were replacing the roof of a residential house. When employees of the first defendant were dismantling the scaffold after completion of the job, part of the scaffold made contact with powerlines. One of the first defendant's employees (the victim) and one of the home owners were injured in the accident, which also caused extensive damage to the house itself. Both defendants had failed to comply with their duties to their employees and to the homeowners to identify and mitigate the risks arising from working near the powerlines. The victim had been seriously injured and suffered ongoing effects from the accident. The Court ordered that the first defendant pay the victim emotional harm reparations of $30,000 and consequential loss payment reparations of $4896.57. The Court also ordered that the homeowners receive emotional harm reparations of $5000 from the first defendant, and $500 from the second defendant. The Court found that the risks from the powerlines were obvious and would have been easy to remedy or mitigate. Likewise, the risk of harm was high. The Court set a start point for fine of $550,000 for the first defendant, and $300,000 for the second. Both defendants earned discounts for factors including cooperation with the investigation, remorse, remedial actions, offer of reparations, support for the victim, good safety record, and guilty pleas. The Court also made costs orders against both defendants, and made further adjustments to reflect both defendants' financial position. The final fine for both defendants was $30,000. Judgment Date: 5 March 2020.