WorkSafe New Zealand v Wallace Murray Electrical Ltd 2019 NZDC 5675

Published 12 August 2019

Sentencing — WorkSafe — failure to take practical steps to ensure safety of workers — electrical — PCBU — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 ss 22, 36, 48, 152 & 158 — Stumpmaster v WorkSafe New Zealand [2018] NZHC 2020 — Electricity Safety Regulations 2010 reg 101 — Department of Labour v Hanham & Philp Contractors Limited (2008) 6 NZELR 79 — WorkSafe v Dimac Contractors Limited [2017] NZDC 26648 — WorkSafe v North Power Limited [2017] NZDC 17527. The defendant company faced sentencing for failing to take all practicable steps as a PCBU to ensure the safety of its workers while at work, under ss 36 and 48 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The victim worked as an electrician for the defendant company and was upgrading the main controls and communications systems for a pump station, when he was subjected to an electrical explosion. The flash caused partial thickness burns to the victim's hands and fingers and affected his face. He was admitted to hospital but was later discharged that day and suffers no further long term consequences from the injuries. WorkSafe identified several shortcomings in the defendant's work process and the reasonably practicable steps the defendant could have undertaken to address these failures. The Judge, applying Stumpmaster, first assessed the amount of reparations payable to the victim. In his victim impact statement, the victim stated that the company had paid him $8,000, including two weeks off work on full pay and ACC top-ups and considered it a generous emotional harm payment and did not seek any more. The Judge accepted the victim's wishes, although indicated the reparations award may well have exceeded $8,000. In assessing the fine, the Judge considered the culpability fell within band two of Stumpmaster and adopted a starting point of $300,000. The Judge discounted 25 per cent for mitigating factors, including co-operation and the almost $140,000 in remedial steps made, and a further 25 per cent for an early guilty plea. The final figure of $168,750 was then adjusted given the size of the company to $150,000. Prosecution costs were ordered in the sum of $1225.69. Judgment Date: 29 March 2019.