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New OSH Act starts to bite; reparations to rise

Friday, May 28th, 2004

New OSH Act starts to bite; reparations to rise

The high profile case brought by OSH in Southland following the death of a dairy farmer in a rotary milking shed is a salutary wake up warning for all managers, says Paul Jarvie, a specialist in occupational and workplace safety.

Mr Jarvie who is Manager of Employment Health & Safety for the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) pointed out the manufacturer and installer was fined $35,000 as a result of the unfortunate accident and a further $50,000 to be paid in reparation to the wife of the deceased farmer.

"The level of the fines and reparation should come as no surprise," Mr Jarvie said.

"The Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act increased the level of fines possible by 500%, and allowed the courts to award reparation payments to the victims or their families and spouses; it came into force a year ago this month.

"Employers and their managers and agents all need to develop, maintain and improve safe systems of work design and installation.

"As the Amendment Act matures the current trend in reparation awards will continue to increase steadily.

"The Act does not indicate a maximum level of reparation, so we do not know what is coming next. Given that the principle Act is over 10 years old there is no excuse for thinking it's new.

"On current approximate profit margins the $50,000 reparation in this case would require a company's turnover to be between $166,000 (30%) to $2.5mill (at 2%).

"Managers have to actively look for things that might go wrong and fix them before employees or the public are exposed to fault.

"The Act doesn't require staff or the work environment to be smothered in cotton wool but managers are expected to ask "what if" something went awry.

"Prevention is always better than cure and money can never alleviate pain or suffering."


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