The Hawera District Court has ordered two companies to pay fines and reparation totalling $70,000 after a worker fell into a cellar at a mothballed oil and gas facility in Taranaki.
The worker fell 3.2 metres after a grating covering a well cellar gave way while he was standing on it. An internal investigation found that the clips used to secure the grating were missing.
The worker suffered a 7-centimetre cut to his shin and a compression fracture of his spine but managed to climb the escape ladder, even though it had several broken rungs and was coming away from the top of the cellar wall.
NZEC Wiahapa Limited, which operates the site in partnership with L&M Energy Limited (which was NOT charged), was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $10,000.NZEC Waihapa had engaged Vause Wireline Limited to work at the site and the injured man was a contractor engaged by Vause Wireline. Vause Wireline was fined $30,000.
Nobody likes to see accidents in the workplace, but the question needs to be asked, is such a heavy handed response helpful? I don’t think so.
We should not forget the first principle behind the establishment of Worksafe NZ is to propagandise for socialism. To promote the idea that we need big government, hordes of bureaucrats, a massive regulatory regime, and massive penalties for violating those regulations and if we don’t have such institutions we’re all going to hell in a handcart.
You can take that pattern and apply it to any number of like socialist organs of government.
Next thing is, to reinforce the idea that we just could not possibly exist without them, these organisations have to make headlines and appear to be doing something. To be seen to be doing something important is actually more desperately required than the actuality.
So they take whatever soft targets they can and they make headlines by punishing them. The message is clear. Look at what we are doing voters. You need us because we’re out there looking out for you, and next year we’ll need more people and a bigger budget to look after you even better.
The reality of the incident outlined above is this. Vause and NZEC are already drowning in Health and Safety regulations and processes. Employees on the job must do Risk Assessments for every operation, and Health and Safety programs are rigidly promoted and enforced throughout the oilfield and most other industries. They are doing everything possible short of not taking any risk and not doing any work at all. They really cannot do much more.
Here is a fact we all know is true. Sometimes employees, even after the best guidance and full of the best intentions will make errors. Regulations and enforcement will never completely eliminate the chance of accidents.
Now everyone at Vause has suffered the grief of this event and they have learnt from that. Likewise NZEC employees from management down will be suffering the same grief and the undergoing the same learning experience.
Does it help in the above situation to have hordes of bureaucrats investigating, prosecuting and fining? After the event? I doubt it.
There is a need for regulatory services as the Pyke River explosion shows. However that particular event would never have happened if that company had been audited for compliance with standard coal mining procedures. If there is a role here for govt to play, its in requiring regular audits of compliance and receiving reports on progress. Prosecutions should be applied before events, not after.
Coming in and stomping around and shouting and prosecuting and fining after the event, especially in such accidents as occurred at Waihapa, where the actions of the individual workmen play such a big part, is just a counter productive socialist govt public relations exercise.