The fatal Icepak Coolstores explosion and fire of 2008 was a preventable accident and the serious penalties imposed by the court should give employers cause to reflect on the importance of ensuring their sites, workers, and others are safe, says the Labour Department.
In a statement released after yesterday’s sentencing of Icepak, its managing director Wayne Grattan and Icepak contractor Mobile Refrigeration Specialists, the department said it believed the outcome was a salutary lesson to those with duties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
Fines of $123,400 and reparations of $270,000, to total $393,400, were imposed on Grattan and the two companies convicted of charges brought by the Labour Department under the HSE Act.
The April 5 explosion at Tamahere killed firefighter Derek Lovell and left seven other firefighters with serious injuries.
“This was a preventable industrial accident which killed a firefighter and changed the lives of seven others seriously injured in the fire. It is a tragedy the Department wants to prevent in the future,” said the Department of Labour’s Chief Adviser for Workplace Health and Safety, Dr Geraint Emrys.
“This case was about an attempt to adapt an existing system to enable a new type of refrigerant to be used. The result was a refrigeration plant that did not, and could not comply with current health and safety requirements. It emphasises the importance of updating knowledge and skills as industrial environments change.
“The serious penalties imposed by the court should give employers cause to reflect on the importance of ensuring their sites, workers, and others are safe.
“There has been huge public interest in the outcome of our investigation and the prosecutions, and we believe the outcome is a salutary lesson to those with duties under the HSE Act that they have to take responsibility for what happens in their businesses.
“The prosecution against the director of Icepak should serve as a reminder to officers, agents and directors of organisations that they can be held personally accountable for the failures of their organisation.
“Mr Grattan was charged with acquiescing in Icepak’s failure in respect of obligations to its employees. The outcome of the case against Mr Grattan reinforces the requirements of directors to be proactive in health and safety matters,” Dr Emrys said.
Icepak Coolstores Ltd was fined $37,200 and ordered to pay reparations of $95,000. It was convicted on three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. One charge alleged the company failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work by exposing them to a hazard arising from the use of the hydrocarbon-based refrigerant Hychill -50. It was also convicted on two charges of failing to take all practicable steps to warn New Zealand Fire Service employees of the presence of a highly flammable substance on the site.
Grattan was fined $30,000 on one charge that he acquiesced in the failure of the company to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work.
Mobile Refrigeration Specialists was fined $56,200 and ordered to pay reparations of $175,000. It faced one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act that it failed to ensure that no action or inaction of its employees harmed any other person namely the New Zealand Fire Service Commission employees. It was also convicted under Health and Safety regulations that as a designer of pressure equipment it failed to take all practicable steps to comply with standards of generally accepted design practice.