Enforceable Undertaking makes a difference

30 Jul 2019

WorkSafe says the completion of an Enforceable Undertaking by Downer New Zealand has shown the company’s commitment to health and safety across the construction industry.

The case related to a subcontractor providing services to Downer who was cutting bolts off a bridge using a portable angle grinder in 2016. The blade being used shattered and fragments struck the worker on his face, penetrating his safety glasses.

Downer believed there would be more benefit to the health and safety system from an Enforceable Undertaking rather than a prosecution and WorkSafe agreed in this case.

[An Enforceable Undertaking (EU) is a voluntary but legally binding agreement between WorkSafe and a duty holder following a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. The idea is to use an E.U. as a response to an incident instead of a prosecution but not if there was reckless conduct. WorkSafe also says the process is unlikely to be accepted if a death results from an accident or work-related illness.]

To signal the completion of the process, WorkSafe met representatives from Downer in July to discuss the EU which involved money being invested back into industry and the wider community.

This included establishing scholarships for tertiary study in workplace health and safety, revising and further developing its contractor prequalification process, paying reparation to the victim, presenting findings on alternative cutting methods to the industry and making a donation to charity.

WorkSafe says with more than 50,000 staff working across more than 300 construction sites, Downer has set the bar high when it comes to improved health and safety and it has shown the value of an EU.

WorkSafe’s Acting Chief Executive Mike Hargreaves said it was good to hear about the benefits of an EU first-hand. This is the first time WorkSafe representatives have met with a company as part of the EU process. 

He said much of Downer’s total expenditure as part of the EU was invested back into the industry to work towards higher health and safety standards.

 “The work Downer has completed of part of its EU shows how the process works as a regulatory tool which benefits the victim, the workplace, the sector and the community.

“It shows that Downer is committed to health and safety not only within its own business, but right across the industry.”

Mr Hargreaves says while WorkSafe saw the value of EUs as a regulatory tool, it should not be viewed as a ‘get out of jail for free card’.

“Make no mistake, an EU is onerous. Through these programmes we see a number of important benefits produced for the system and Downer’s recently completed EU is a great example of how the model can work.”

To date there have been 24 accepted Enforceable Undertakings between WorkSafe and duty holders, which has seen more than $3.8 million distributed across workplaces, industry, and community health and safety initiatives.

In the summary of the EU, Downer undertook to:

  • Provide amends in the form of a payment and professional development opportunities to the victim.
  • Revise and further develop its contractor prequalification process.
  • Provide contractor management training.
  • Develop a contractor induction pack.
  • Contribute to a sub-contractor management project.
  • Share lessons learned on alternative cutting methods.
  • Present Downer’s findings on alternative cutting methods to selected industry associations.
  • Present seminar series in conjunction with the injured worker.
  • Develop and disseminate angle grinder safety information for small businesses and individuals.
  • Establish a scholarship to support tertiary study in workplace health and safety.
  • Make a donation to Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

This Enforceable Undertaking had a total expenditure of at least $189,548.

 Note: The suggestion of using the Enforceable Undertaking process must come from the duty holder. WorkSafe says it will only consider the application after completing its investigation and deciding whether it feels prosecution is an appropriate response.  

For more information go here.