A recent prosecution by WorkSafe has been a timely reminder of the requirement not to obstruct an investigation into an incident.

Eric Gerritsen ran a business providing amusement rides, including a large inflatable slide which was approximately 12 metres high. At the Masterton A&P Show the slide collapsed, injuring six children.

WorkSafe brought charges under section 48 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, saying that Mr Gerritsen "delayed an inspector" while the inspector was lawfully exercising or performing a power, function or duty under the Act.

The District Court decided that WorkSafe's "investigation into the collapse of the Mammoth Slide was delayed and hindered and ultimately thwarted by Mr Gerritsen, who failed to provide any information required to complete the investigation."

Against a maximum fine of $250,000, Judge Burnett decided that the starting point for a fine in this case would be $115,000, noting that it would have been higher if there had been multiple incidences being investigated and more serious injuries. There were no mitigating factors identified, and therefore Mr Gerritsen was fined $115,000.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 includes a similar provision prohibiting a person from obstructing or hindering an inspector, and also imposes a positive duty to give all reasonable assistance to enable an inspector to enter, inspect, examine, inquire, or exercise any other power under relevant health and safety legislation. It will therefore be important to assist with WorkSafe's investigations. Obstructing an investigation will clearly not protect you from prosecution.

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