WorkSafe New Zealand v Cropp Logging Limited [2018] NZDC 20232

Published 05 February 2019

Company failed to ensure health and safety of workers — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, s 36 — Stumpmaster v WorkSafe New Zealand [2018] NZHC 2020 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Department of Corrections — Harvest Pro New Zealand Limited v R [2015] NZHC 364 — Hessell v R [2010] NZSC 135. The defendant company faced two charges. One charge of failing to take all reasonable steps steps to ensure that the site where an event occurred was not disturbed until authorised by an inspector, was withdrawn by leave. Cropp Logging Limited (CLL) had pleaded guilty to a charge under s 36(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act (the Act). The charge alleged that the company failed to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of its workers. The particulars of that charge alleged it was reasonably practicable for CLL to complete an adequate safe behavioural observation of the worker, induct the worker properly into his role as head breaker-out and to ensure that no machinery was operating above the area where the worker was breaking out. The victim was at his first day of work for the company when a log rolled down a hill and severely injured him. He suffered a broken pelvis, fractured hip, fractured femur and spine, as well as psychological harm. The victim was permanently injured and will not be able to work in his trained position again. Sentencing under the Act has four steps: assessing the amount of reparation to be paid to the victim, fixing the amount of the fine by reference to guideline bands and any mitigating or aggravating features, determining whether further orders are required (the judge determined this step was unnecessary in this case), making an assessment of the proportionality and appropriateness of the sanctions produced by the first three steps. In considering the reparation to be paid to the victim, the judge reference previous case law. Reparation in these circumstances would usually be around $50,000. However, the judge noted that inflation (which had particularly impacted house prices and working people) had decreased the value of these awards. Taking into account the victim's injuries, reparation of $80,000 was ordered. Section 36 fines have a maximum penalty of $1,500,000. The judge adopted a $750,000 starting point as the victim was severely injured and the nature of forestry is very dangerous. The risks of operating machinery and logging is a well known and understood risk. CLL failed to give the victim an adequate induction or ensure that no risks were posed to people working below where logs could roll onto them. There was a high risk of death. CLL was given a 25% reduction for its immediate guilty plea and 25% for mitigating factors. This reduced the fine to $375,000. The judge noted this was a fair penalty for CLL to pay but reduced it to $100,000 as this was the maximum amount CLL would actually be able to pay. Judgment Date: 25 September 2018.