The death of a school caretaker and the penalties imposed today on the school’s Board of Trustees underline the importance of keeping workplaces safe, the Department of Labour says.
Orewa College Board of Trustees was sentenced in the North Shore District Court today on two charges laid by the Department under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 in relation to a boiler explosion in June 2009. The Board was ordered to pay reparation of $81,100 in respect of caretaker Richard Nel, and $55,729 for injured contractor Robin Tubman.
“The death of Richard Nel and the serious injury to Robin Tubman were preventable, and are a reminder of why workplace health and safety is so very important, and of why those responsible for keeping workplaces safe must do so effectively,” says Department of Labour Northern Region Manager John Howard.
The Board of Trustees had earlier admitted it did not take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee while at work, or ensure that a hazard in the workplace did not harm an employee or contractor.
Mr Howard says that, by law, Boards of Trustees have overall control of their school. While they may delegate this on a day-to-day basis, they still retain responsibility for the health and safety of people working at, attending or visiting the school. This includes making sure that systems are in place so that hazards are identified and managed.
“Unfortunately, the Orewa College Board of Trustees did not ensure the school’s boiler facilities were repaired, modified and maintained in a safe and effective manner.”
Mr Howard says the Department investigated the accident as part of its responsibilities under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
The prosecution was of the Board of Trustees, not the individuals who comprise it, because it is the Board, as the employer, that has responsibilities under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Individual members of school boards cannot be held personally liable.
He says the Department, the New Zealand School Trustees Association and the Ministry of Education have been working together to reinforce the need for workplace safety in schools - in particular, school boiler safety, given that around 40 percent of the nearly 2500 schools in New Zealand use boilers for heating.
“We are working together to make sure Boards of Trustees understand what is required of them to manage boilers safely and effectively – this includes an annual independent inspection, a regular maintenance contract and making sure boiler operators are trained.”
“We all think it important that school boards take steps to ensure no further events of this nature.”
Note: A copy of the summary of facts as presented to the court is available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org