Employers required to give all reasonable assistance to WorkSafe

Health and Safety / 26 March 2021
Employers required to give all reasonable assistance to WorkSafe

In this case business owners are reminded of their responsibility in working and co-operating with WorkSafe inspectors during site visits and investigations. A dairy farmer has been fined $4,000 after preventing inspectors from accessing his property and failing to attend or reschedule an interview with WorkSafe at its offices.

Case details

In 2018 WorkSafe inspectors met with farmers across the Palmerston North region to help educate and upskill them about hazardous substances. As part of the training, inspectors visited this property a number of times, but were not allowed onto the property.

WorkSafe reminded the farmer of WorkSafe’s role and the farmers’ responsibilities, but he still he denied access and failed to attend a required interview. The Court found that he had deliberately obstructed the inspectors in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The HSWA requires that all reasonable assistance must be given to WorkSafe inspectors who are entering, inspecting, examining or exercising any other power.

There was no belief at the time of the initial visits, that the farmer was in breach of HSWA. The purpose of the visits was for the educational benefit to him and his health and safety practices. By refusing inspectors entry and failing to assist them in the exercise of their duties, the farmer was being deliberately obstructive. This is a reminder to all employers and business owners of their duties to give all reasonable assistance to an inspector carrying out their job. This may be simply for education purposes right through to post-incident inspections.

Message for Employers

Given the risk of penalties, employers and PCBUs must take the time to assist and facilitate WorkSafe visits. If alternative arrangements need to be made, then ensure this is done in a reasonable and timely way. It is important employers turn their minds to co-operating with inspectors whether it be post-incident or simply for educational purposes.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

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