WorkSafe New Zealand v Coastwide Flooring Xtra Ltd [2021] NZDC 8387

Published 09 December 2021

Sentencing — failing to ensure health and safety of workers — inhalation of toxic fumes — solvent fumes — Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, ss 3, 36(1)(a), 48(1), 48(2)(c), 151 & 152 — Summary Proceedings Act 1957, s 86 — Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 — Stumpmaster Limited v WorkSafe New Zealand [2018] NZHC 2020 — WorkSafe New Zealand v Department of Corrections [2016] NZDC 24865 — AS/NZS 2455.1:2007 Textile floor coverings - Installation practice, para 1.5.3, para B — Worksafe New Zealand, What the Hazardous Substances Regulations mean for you: 10 key things you need to know and do, April 2018 — Worksafe New Zealand quick guide, Reducing harm when working with organic solvents, April 2018. The defendant company appeared for sentence on a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers, thereby exposing those workers to the risk of death or serious injury. One of the defendant's employees (the victim) had been overwhelmed by solvent fumes while laying carpet. He was taken to hospital but died the following day. It was unclear whether the fume inhalation had directly caused the victim's death, but it was likely to have at least contributed. The charge against the defendant alleged that it had failed to conduct an effective work assessment for work requiring the use of certain adhesives; failed to implement a safe system of work for work involving those adhesives; failed to ensure proper information, training and instruction for workers using those adhesives; and that it failed to provide proper safety equipment to its workers. The Court ordered emotional harm reparations of $105,000 to the victim's widow, along with consequential losses of $142,424.20. Regarding the quantum of fine, the Court set a start point of $600,000, observing that the defendant's practice of making its employees responsible for their own safety went against the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Court made reductions for guilty plea, lack of previous relevant convictions, remedial actions, support to the victim's family, and remorse, lowering the fine to $360,000. Taking account of the defendant's financial position, the Court set the final amount of fine at $60,000, payable over five years, along with court costs of $130 and prosecution costs of $1649.15. Judgment Date: 29 April 2021.