In a strong message to the forestry sector, police have taken
the rare step of bringing a criminal charge as a result of a
forestry related death.
Paul Burr appeared in the Levin District Court on 2 September
2014 charged with the manslaughter of 20-year-old forestry worker
Lincoln Kidd in December last year. He has pleaded not guilty.
Mr Burr was operating a tree-felling mechanical harvester when
Mr Kidd was struck and killed by a falling tree. The police allege
that Mr Burr failed to take "reasonable precaution or care to
avoid danger" which resulted in Mr Kidd's death.
The prosecution is the first manslaughter charge to be laid in
New Zealand in respect of a forestry related death and represents a
change in the approach taken by police to dealing with workplace
fatalities. It goes against the previous practice of investigating
workplace deaths solely under the Health and Safety in Employment
Act 1992 (HSE Act).
The personal charge brought against Mr Burr is in addition to
charges laid by WorkSafe NZ against the company and two individuals
under the HSE Act. While the HSE Act provides for criminal charges,
the manslaughter charge has been brought under the Crimes Act 1961
and involves a reckless disregard for safety.
This tragedy also raises questions about the appropriateness of
corporate manslaughter in situations such as this. The Health and
Safety Reform Bill, currently being considered by the Select
Committee, does not provide for corporate manslaughter. It does
however significantly increase the penalties for corporations and
individuals in breach of workplace health and safety.
New Zealand has a disturbing safety record in the forestry
sector. Mr Kidd's death was among ten forestry related
fatalities in 2013. This development sends a strong message to
employers and employees in the forestry sector and other industries
that accountability for workplace health and safety lies with
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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