On 5 July 2016, two workers employed by Airtech Limited* were engaged to clean a refrigeration unit in an enclosed chiller for NZ Hot House Limited. The workers were lifted by an LPG fuelled forklift to the chiller evaporator unit by a third worker employed by KPH Produce Limited. They spent two hours working on the unit with the forklift running approximately 50% of the time. They had a lunch break and began cleaning another unit using the same LPG fuelled forklift. After approximately 40 minutes one worker described feeling unwell and an ambulance was called. The two other workers continued working for another 20 minutes before experiencing similar symptoms and eventually passed out. Emergency services arrived and treated the workers. The fire service measured the carbon monoxide levels in the chiller at 500 ppm, which is the highest reading the detector can make. The three workers were treated in hospital, with two of the three receiving specialist medical care at Devonport Naval Base.
*Airtech Limited is not associated with and is entirely separate to a similarly named company, Airtech NZ Limited.
Sections 36(1) (a), 48(1) and 2(c), of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
Summary of Enforceable Undertaking
- Provide amends in the form of payment to the victims.
- Develop a risk management tool for workers in the industry; including a mobile device risk assessment system.
- Host seminars for industry and make the risk assessment material freely available to interested parties.
- Produce an educational video and article.
- Make an appropriate charitable donation.
This enforceable undertaking has a total expenditure of at least $80,000.00
Reasons for accepting the undertaking
The alleged contravention does not amount to an offence against section 47 (reckless conduct) which would preclude it from being accepted.
The enforceable undertaking meets the requirements of WorkSafe’s Enforceable Undertakings Operational Policy; noting:
- The nature of the proposals in the application and the benefits that would be realised to the health and safety system from them.
- The activities in the enforceable undertaking will provide long-term sustainable health and safety improvements in the workplace, industry, and community.
- The nature of the alleged contravention and how serious it was.
- The incident was serious.
- Information received from any interested party in relation to the contravention.
- The Airtech workers are supportive of an enforceable undertaking as a suitable enforcement outcome to the incident.
- Mitigation and remedial action, already taken, or planned, regarding both the contravention and any person affected by the contravention (including victims).
In addition to the measures outlined above, Airtech has:
- Expressed regret that the incident occurred; acknowledging that carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
- Immediately taken remedial action to ensure that the risks of carbon monoxide in confined spaces are known to all workers.
- The person’s past performance and history of compliance with health and safety legislation.
- Is satisfactory.
- Any likely outcome if the matter were dealt with by legal proceedings.
- A charge was filed in relation to this incident on the basis that there was both evidential sufficiency, and a public interest in initiating a prosecution: a successful prosecution outcome may have resulted.
- Any other matter which WorkSafe thinks is relevant.
- The undertaking delivers benefits beyond compliance.
- The undertaking offers sufficient benefit to the workplace, industry and community to offset the seriousness of the offending.
- The undertaking contains acceptable terms.
- The undertaking accounts for the benefits that accrue
26 March 2018
View the full Airtech Limited enforceable undertaking here.