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Worksafe NZ fine for helmet use

15 May 2014

Worksafe NZ fine for helmet use

Federated Farmers believes that penalties of $15,000, imposed on a herd manager under the Health and Safety in Employment 1992 Act, indicates Worksafe NZ is prepared to use its regulatory stick, but the size of the fine is unprecedented.

“Worksafe NZ is sending a clear message to all quad bike users that it has the regulatory muscle and is now prepared to deploy it,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Whatever you may think about a helmet the law is the law. If you flout it you risk significant penalties as this case shows.

“Yet the size of the penalty has come as a shock, given the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $150 and drivers are responsible for those under 15 years of age. It is why Worksafe NZ needs to fully explain why the penalty in this case is 100 times greater than that for seatbelts.

“The risk with this penalty is the climate of fear and suspicion it creates instead of the positive relationship and progress that seemed to be developing.

“Worksafe inspectors have been visiting farms, preceded by warning letters, and there has been significant coverage in the rural media as well as advisories to farmers from Federated Farmers and like minded organisations.

“While there is an understandable focus on farmers and quad bike use, we are far from being the only users of them judging by what I see on television. There are far more quad bikes in New Zealand than registered road going motorcycles.

“With Worksafe NZ’s farm inspections, where a breach has been found, a warning letter or infringement notice is either issued or posted out, which is the wake-up call for those who have not heeded our advice.

"If you have an accident while not wearing a helmet, then it means you have not taken all practicable steps to eliminate hazards. If it involves an employee then the penalties are enormous, let alone the emotional toll.

“Not wearing a helmet on a quad bike is like not wearing a respirator when spraying weeds. You need to wear the right protective equipment, and with quad bikes it makes helmet use the law.

“The nature and size of what Worksafe NZ has imposed tells us that it does have the necessary teeth at its disposal. The question is whether those teeth have bitten too deep,” Mr Wills concluded.

ACC has an excellent guide on quad bike use available here.

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