Employers required to give all reasonable assistance to WorkSafe
Health and Safety / 23 February 2021
In a recent case, business owners have been reminded of their responsibility in working and co-operating with WorkSafe inspectors during site visits and investigations. A dairy farmer has been fined $4,000 after preventing inspectors from accessing his property and failing to attend or reschedule an interview with WorkSafe at its offices.
In 2018 WorkSafe inspectors were meeting with farmers across the Palmerston North region to help educate and upskill them about hazardous substances. As part of the training, inspectors had visited this farmers property on more than one occasion in which they were not allowed onto the property despite proof of WorkSafe identification cards.
Even after confirmation of their roles and responsibilities with WorkSafe the farmer would not allow the inspectors on his property and he failed to attend a required interview. The Court found that he had deliberately obstructed the workers in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The HSWA requires that all reasonable assistance must be given to WorkSafe inspectors who are entering, inspecting, examining or exercising any other power under the legislation.
There was no belief at the time of the initial visits, that the farmer was in breach of HSWA. The purpose of the visits was for the educational benefit to him and his health and safety practices. By refusing inspectors entry and failing to assist them in the exercise of their duties, the farmer was being deliberately obstructive. This is a reminder to all employers and business owners of its duties to give all reasonable assistance to an inspector carrying out his job. This may be simply for education purposes right through to post-incident inspections.
Message for Employers
Given the risk of penalties, employers and business must take the time to assist and facilitate WorkSafe visits. If alternative arrangements need to be made, then ensure this is done in a reasonable and timely way. It is important employers turn their minds to co-operating with investigators whether it be post-incident or simply for educational purposes.
We have a fixed price offer available for employers to train senior staff on the ‘need to know’ around post-accident and efficient and reasonable engagement with WorkSafe and its investigators. How business owners conduct themselves post-incident or in dealings with WorkSafe can be crucial to navigating the next steps or defending any prosecutions. For more details, please contact us.
Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.