WorkSafe New Zealand v Precision Animal Supplements Ltd [2018] NZDC 19342

Published 10 June 2020

Sentencing — failing to ensure health and safety of workers — exposing workers to risk of serious illness — hazardous substances — toxic substances — health and safety consultant — safe system of work — WorkSafe New Zealand Practical Guide: Working Safely with Hazardous Substances — Code of Practice for the Management of Substances Hazardous — Stump Master Ltd v WorkSafe New Zealand [2018] NZHC 2190 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Hutt Construction 2013 Ltd [2016] NZDC 3652 — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. The defendant appeared for sentence on a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers, as a result exposing its workers to the risk of serious illness. The defendant produced mineral pallets for bovines. The ingredients of the pallets included lime and trace materials, and the production process produced large amounts of dust that spread throughout the defendant's factory. The defendant had engaged a health and safety consultant and had conducted four onsite safety audits over a five-year period. The health and safety consultant had never raised the issue of hazardous substances, despite the fact that the defendant's products contained hazardous and toxic substances. An investigation by WorkSafe revealed major failures by the defendant in developing a safe system of work for workers exposed to toxic substances, in providing its workers with safety data sheets for the substances, and in minimising the exposure of its workers to hazardous substances. WorkSafe conducted health checks on four of the defendant's employees, which showed that three of them had below-normal lung function. The Court observed that the defendant's actions fell below industry standards and guidelines for working with hazardous substances. Three of the defendant's employees provided statements detailing the sight and breathing problems that they had developed while working for the defendant. The defendant had made payments of $3000 each to two of the victims, and $2000 to the third. The Court ordered further reparations of $2000 each to the first two victims, and $1000 to the third. On the issue of fines, the Court found that the defendant's actions had exposed its workers to a risk of serious harm, that the defendant had fallen below industry standards, that the risk was "blindingly obvious", and the defendant should have addressed the problem long before. The Court set the level of fine at $400,000. The defendant earned discounts for reparations already paid, cooperation and guilty plea. The Court also considered the defendant's financial position, settling the final fine at $70,000. The defendant was ordered to pay costs of $4740. Judgment Date: 10 September 2018.