Health and safety penalties “bite”: company’s fine and reparations total almost $180,000

Rangiora Carpets Limited (Rangiora Carpets) has been sentenced to a fine of $157,500, reparation of $20,000 and costs in one of the first reported sentencing decisions under the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (the Act). This decision confirms the significant increase in fines for health and safety offences, which was signalled in the first sentencing decision under the Act (our alert on that decision can be found here).

Rangiora Carpets was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court for one charge under the Act. The charge related to an incident where a worker was seriously injured after falling from a mezzanine floor in June 2016.

The mezzanine floor was unconsented and not designed to bear weight. A staff member was on the mezzanine floor, pushing a heavy box when her foot slipped and she lost her balance. She then fell through a false ceiling to the floor 2.5m below. The staff member suffered broken bones and fractures, and a laceration to her head.

Following the accident, Rangiora Carpets pleaded guilty to a charge under section 48 of the Act of failing to ensure the health and safety of staff by exposing them to the risk of serious injury through fall from height.

The WorkSafe investigation found that Rangiora Carpets had failed to identify the risk of a fall from height and had failed to ensure appropriate controls were in place on the mezzanine floor, such as edge protection or a balustrade.

The maximum fine under this section of the Act is $1.5 million. The Court accepted a starting point of $300,000 before reductions for the guilty plea, co-operation, and other factors. Judge Tom Gilbert said that fines should “bite”, but should not be so great that they would force any company to close its doors.

We will continue to monitor further developments in this area, particularly as more sentencing decisions under the Act make their way through the courts. If you have questions about this update, or the Act more generally, our team would be happy to assist you.

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