This article by Duncan Cotterill is a timely reminder to companies that they need to get serious about Health and Safety.  It is not long now till the Government will implement major changes to health and safety legislation, with much harsher penalties available than Mr Britton received.

For the first time, a health and safety prosecution in New Zealand has resulted in a sentence of home detention for the company director.

Mr Britton, the company director for Britton House Movers Ltd, was the foreman on the job on the day of the incident. A house was being moved, and came into contact with a power line. The live power line snapped, and fell on to the roof of the house. An employee used a wooden stick to move the power line into a ditch, out of sight.  They then went on to continue with the house delivery, without notifying authorities of the downed power line.

At the same time, a local farmer was moving his sheep out of a nearby paddock.  Some of the sheep walked into the ditch and were electrocuted, as were two of the farmer’s dogs. The farmer himself narrowly avoided being electrocuted, being pulled back by his assistant when he was reaching out to one of the dead sheep. They then chased down the house-moving convoy, and called the authorities.

The full sentence was four months’ home detention for Mr Britton and a fine of $60,000 for his company. It was noted that this fine was reduced significantly, because of the financial situation of the company. 

With the upcoming changes to health and safety legislation, which provide for much higher penalties than are currently available, this sentence could mark the beginning of more severe sentences generally.

Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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