Eight people died, including the skipper, when the Easy Rider
sunk in Foveaux Strait in March 2012. The sole director of the
company which owned the vessel, Gloria Davis, has recently been
Ms Davis was charged with failing to take all practical steps to
ensure the safety of contractors (vessel deckhands) working on
board the vessel.
The Court found that the Easy Rider vessel had gone to sea on a
commercial fishing trip:
without having passed a safety audit
with a number of safety issues, including insufficient
carrying passengers which was not permitted under its maritime
with a skipper that did not have the required skipper's
Ms Davis was charged under s 56(1) of the Health and Safety in
Employment Act 1992, which allows charges to be brought against
directors of a company in their personal capacity for their
acquiescence or participation in the health and safety breaches of
Charges under s 56(1) have historically been relatively rare,
and successful prosecutions have tended to involve small
owner-operated businesses. Section 56 is to be superseded in the
new health and safety regime, which will instead impose direct
obligations of due diligence on company directors.
Ms Davis argued that her role was merely clerical and she did
not have any real responsibility for safety matters. She was not
involved operationally at all in the Easy Rider fishing business.
That side of things was run by her husband the skipper. However,
the Court found that she had clearly held herself out as having
responsibility for health and safety and maritime compliance
matters (she was listed as responsible for safety procedures in the
Safe Ship Management Policy and Operations Manual and had taken
practical responsibility for all compliance paperwork).
This case illustrates the trend towards imposing greater
liability on directors of companies involved in health and safety
Under the new regime, we expect more cases of directors who are
not operationally involved being found liable for health and safety
breaches in circumstances where they have not obtained key
knowledge on health and safety performance in order to ensure it is
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