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Minister Announces Tranz Rail Safety Inquiry

Minister announces details of Tranz Rail safety inquiry

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson today announced the terms of reference for a ministerial inquiry into the safety practices and standards of Tranz Rail.

The inquiry, to be headed by Wellington QC Bill Wilson, was prompted by the death of a railway shunter in Christchurch in May – the fifth death of a Tranz Rail employee during the last year.

The terms of reference have been drafted in consultation with Tranz Rail and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union. Ms Wilson will be convening the inquiry, as Minister of Labour, in consultation with the Minister of Transport.

"The primary focus of the inquiry will be occupational safety, as is appropriate to my responsibilities as Minister of Labour," says Ms Wilson. "However, issues around passenger and public safety are likely to arise in the inquiry in various areas where safety factors relate to both employees and the public.

"Furthermore, the inquiry is to consider the culture within Tranz Rail that may be relevant to safety issues, as well as looking into systemic factors that may have contributed to the recent fatal accidents to employees.

"I am also undertaking a review of the Health and Safety in Employment Act this year," says Ms Wilson. "In developing the terms of reference for this inquiry I have needed to ensure that any recommendations can be considered as part of the overall review of that Act."

The findings of the inquiry are due to be reported to the Minister by 31 August 2000.

Contact: 025 856 465
Or Bill Wilson (04) 499 4573 (after 3.30pm)

Terms of Reference attached…




This inquiry is a Ministerial Inquiry which is convened by the Minister of Labour, in consultation with the Minister of Transport.

It is prompted by a series of fatal accident to employees of Tranz Rail Limited or its subsidiaries (“Tranz Rail”).

It seeks to establish whether there are any systemic factors that contribute to that situation, whether those factors arise out of the nature or content of the safety regulatory regime governing Tranz Rail’s activities, out of the systems in place under that regime, or out of a failure to effectively implement the required systems.

This inquiry will not seek to establish the particular cause of any specific incident or accident, recognising that such incidents or accidents are properly the subject of separate investigation by the appropriate authorities. For the avoidance of doubt, if this inquiry obtains evidence or information that should be placed before the appropriate authorities with a view to consideration being given either to the prosecution of any person or to the taking of any enforcement action against any person, that evidence or information shall not be included in the report to the Ministers of Labour and Transport, but should be placed before the appropriate authorities.


Except to the extent otherwise specified in Term of Reference (5) below, the inquiry will be concerned only with occupational safety and health issues in work –

(a) associated with the operation of a rail service governed by the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989; and

(b) associated with any activities related to the conduct of a rail service (such as the operation of workshops, maintenance of vehicles, loading and unloading, work on or near rail tracks etc) governed directly by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.


These Terms of Reference should be interpreted in light of the statement of Scope.

“Relevant Tranz Rail employees and contractors” means employees and contractors who do work of the type specified in the statement of Scope.

“Rail service” has the meaning given it by section 2(1) of the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989.


The Inquiry will:

1) (a) Identify and consider the nature, scope and content of the legislative regime governing occupational safety and health issues for relevant Tranz Rail employees and contractors.

(b) Identify any factors affecting the ability of relevant agencies to effectively and consistently facilitate and enforce an appropriate level of occupational safety and health.

2) (a) Identify and consider the nature, scope, content and integrity of the Approved Safety System under the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 that governs, inter alia, occupational safety and health matters for some relevant Tranz Rail employees and contractors.

(b) Consider the effectiveness of the system for auditing the Approved Safety System and Tranz Rail’s compliance with it.

3) Identify and consider the manner in which and the extent to which Tranz Rail has implemented that Approved Safety System in practice and its means of ensuring ongoing compliance with the requirements of the system.

4) Identify and consider actual situations and practices within Tranz Rail which are relevant to the operation of a safe and healthy place of work, whether within the scope of the Approved Safety System itself or in other rail-related activities.

5) Identify and consider any culture or cultures (i.e., influences or attitudes which affect practices and behaviour) within Tranz Rail and its employees and contractors that may be relevant to the operation of a safe and healthy place of work. For the purposes of this Term of Reference (5), it may be relevant to consider such cultures within areas of Tranz Rail’s activities other than those related to the rail service.

6) Consider whether the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989, and in particular section 6H of that Act, achieves the same objective as the Health and Safety in Employment Act of providing for the prevention of harm to employees at work.

7) Identify any issues or deficiencies, relevant to the operation of a safe and healthy place of work, whether in the legislative regime itself, the Approved Safety System, or Tranz Rail’s or its employee’s or its contractor’s cultures and operational practices.

8) Make recommendations for any necessary or desirable changes in:

(a) the legislative regime (including any changes to the way in which different pieces of legislation and agencies interact with each other); and

(b) the Approved Safety System currently in place in respect of Tranz Rail; and

(c) the means of auditing compliance with the Approved Safety System; and

(d) the way in which Tranz Rail meets or attempts to meet its obligations under relevant occupational safety and health legislation; and

(e) the culture, practices and procedures of Tranz Rail, its employees and contractors as they relate to relevant occupational safety and health matters.

9) Make any other recommendations that may assist to secure for relevant Tranz Rail employees and contractors a safer and more healthy workplace.


The inquiry will proceed by way of an investigation and may be informed in such manner as the Inquiry thinks fit, including holding some formal hearings if necessary. Whether or not any hearing is held, the investigation will be conducted in a fair manner and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

The Inquiry may make such inquiries and obtain such reports as it considers necessary, but is not bound by any rules of evidence or by any particular procedure. The Inquiry may appoint expert assessors to assist it with particular aspects of its Terms of Reference.

The Inquiry may talk to and hear from such persons and organisations as it sees fit including (but not limited to) Tranz Rail, relevant government agencies, Tranz Rail employees and their representatives.


The Inquiry will report to the Ministers of Labour and Transport by 31 August 2000.

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