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State Servants Liable For Millions

21 April 2002

State Servants Liable For Millions Under OSH Regulations - Margaret Wilson Strikes Again

Thousands of state servants will soon become personally liable for all costs and fines of up to $500,000 that result from prosecutions for breaches of OSH regulations in their work places, National ACC Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said today.

Mr Brownlee released answers to parliamentary questions asking how much general liability insurance cover was held by their departments and other state agencies.

"Answers reveal Government departments and agencies have in excess of $1 billion of general liability insurance, which currently covers state employees for costs incurred and penalties awarded from any prosecutions in the work place," Mr Brownlee said.

"But the new Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill will make such cover illegal (Clause 56 (i)), exposing thousands of state employees to personal liability for prosecution and fines that may arise from work place accidents.

"The same will apply to many more thousands of workers in the private sector," says Brownlee.

"It is ridiculous that the Government's new regulations make workers personally liable for the cost of accidents. These people are simply doing their job and it is a fact that accidents happen, but this doesn't mean employees have exercised criminal intent or should be held financially liable.

The proposal from the Minister will also wipe out professional indemnity cover for directors and management of both state and private enterprises where OSH pursues prosecutions.

"If passed into law it will bring wide spread cover-up of accident causes as all involved scramble to avoid the high cost of accepting responsibility. The only losers here will be workers who are caught both ways.

"Margaret Wilson needs to tell us how it can be an act of good faith to remove the protection of $1 billion insurance cover from government employees and not offer any compensation for the additional risk they now face," Mr Brownlee said.


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