We have accepted enforceable undertakings from air conditioning and refrigeration company Airtech Limited, and vegetable packaging and marketing company NZ Hot House Limited, following an incident in July 2016 where workers were unnecessarily exposed to carbon monoxide.
Two Airtech workers were working to clean an evaporator unit in a chiller; they were using an LPG forklift operated by an NZ Hot House worker. After two hours working on the unit, an Airtech worker began to feel unwell and stopped working. The other Airtech worker and the forklift operator continued working, before they both fainted as a result of carbon monoxide exposure.
This is the second time two companies charged for the same incident under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 have each successfully been granted enforceable undertakings.
We found that Airtech had not identified or mitigated the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the chiller from the use of an LPG-powered forklift. NZ Hot House had not developed and implemented a safe system of work for use of LPG forklifts, or developed and authorised an adequate contractor management system.
WorkSafe Chief Operating Officer Phil Parkes said in some circumstances the enforceable undertakings represented an effective way of dealing with health and safety breaches, without going through the courts.
“This is a great example of businesses learning from their mistakes, and developing solutions and initiatives that won’t just prevent a similar occurrence in their own business, but ones that will help other businesses as well.”
The affected employees are supportive of the enforceable undertakings.
Under Airtech Limited’s enforceable undertaking, the company committed to initiatives including:
- Providing amends in the form of payment to the victims.
- Developing a risk management tool for workers in the industry including a mobile device risk assessment system.
- Hosting seminars for industry and making the risk assessment material freely available to interested parties.
- Producing an educational video and article.
- Making a charitable donation.
Airtech’s Managing Director Brian Stokes said: “The experience and learnings from the enforceable undertaking process has been a positive experience for all our staff and for the company itself. It has shown us what really matters in worker health and safety – that it’s about what is happening at the coal face for our staff.”
“Through the enforceable undertaking, we have developed a mobile app that provides an active hazard identification system that forces staff to stop and identify hazards before they start work. It’s a staff driven process and we have shown that good health and safety does not need to cost a lot of money.”
“The app we have developed will be able to be used by any company working in uncontrolled sites with changing hazards. The health and safety solution will help keep more than just my workers safe.”
Under NZ Hot House’s enforceable undertaking, the company (and its related company KPH Produce Limited) committed to initiatives including:
- Providing amends in the form of payment, support and ACC top-up to the victims.
- Offering staff one paid safety day for the purpose of attending a course, conference or safety event; conducting an in house safety day for all staff; and a half day mock incident drill to train staff.
- Commissioning a report on the benefits to worker safety in horticulture by implementing literacy and numeracy initiatives.
- Commissioning an article for publication discussing the incident.
- Presenting to industry bodies regarding the incident.
- Creating a horticultural safety intern programme for a local school leaver.
NZ Hot House Limited Director Simon Watson said: “Our incident was a sharp reminder that businesses can never let down their guard and that the assessment of workplace risk is a never-ending journey.”
“Failure to adequately identify and deal with a potential hazard resulted in a staff member and two contractors being harmed and we regret that our system failure allowed this to occur.”
“We are appreciative that the enforceable undertaking process will allow us to work with our staff and help increase their understanding of our health and safety systems and the important role that they play. Additionally, we are looking forward to sharing our learnings with the greater horticultural industry, through the establishment of a meaningful training platform, to assist workers and businesses to reduce risk and operate in a genuinely safe working environment.”
The full enforceable undertakings, together with the reasons for our decisions, are available at:
We will continue to monitor compliance of these enforceable undertakings.