Sensationalism Above Sound Advice

Another prosecution in the headlines, but where is the guidance and supporting facts to help steer businesses in the right direction?

This week, we learnt publicly of the health and safety prosecution of Wealleans Bay of Plenty Limited by WorkSafe, related to the tragic death of Mrs. Walmsley in February 2020 on the Tauranga Eastern Link Road.


Now, while the sentence has not been made public as of yet by the court, it’s hard to ignore the sensationalist feel that this article has, of yet another prosecution.


In my experience, the issue of “White Out” that was raised in this case has a number of far-reaching implications across a number of industries. By WorkSafe’s own admission, ‘this incident could have happened anywhere in the country’.


Think of private gravel roads, dirt farm tracks that run parallel to a road, ground preparation for cropping, earthworks in dry environments, burn offs, quarry’s, ski fields, or demolition sites.


So where is the regulator guidance? Where is the fact sheet? Yes, we have it around individual respiratory protection for our workers, but what about for third parties that may be affected by the work activities taking place.


The closest piece of guidance available is an outdated safety manual on ground-spreading currently available on WorkSafe’s website. A manual which has no mention of wind being a risk factor in the “Environment and Weather changes” section.


Without up-to-date guidance being issued alongside such media releases, businesses will inevitability react how they think they should. For some this will be no change and no action, for others it will potentially be an overreaction, and of course there will be those who will take a measured, pragmatic approach.


The Challenge


My challenge to workplaces who might want to be on either end of that spectrum, is to seek some good advice, either internally or externally. Complete a realistic risk assessment involving your workers, and make good business decisions to ensure your workers and those around your work, get home healthy and safe.


My challenge to WorkSafe is to engage with businesses in Aotearoa in a constructive manner, not just with a shock and awe media release. As with a lot of these cases, there is plenty of time to proactively prepare better guidance or fact sheets. Provide guidance that can genuinely support the step towards change that is needed to prevent this type of incident from happening in future. If you need help doing this, reach out to those within the industries that can help.


View the related article here.

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