Monday, April 22, 2024


Today, former Port of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson went on trial on health and safety charges for the death of one of his workers. The Herald calls the trial "unprecedented". Firstly, it's only "unprecedented" because WorkSafe struck a corrupt and unlawful deal to drop charges against Peter Whittall over Pike River. And secondly, it's only "unprecedented" because previous iterations of the law didn't incentivise corporate officers towards protecting worker safety by imposing personal liability.

That all changed with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. One of its key provisions is that it holds officers as well as corporations responsible, with strict liability, regardless of whether the corporation has plead guilty or not. So the actual people who set safety regimes, or undermine them, can be held responsible.

At least, that's the idea. Gibson's trial I guess will tell us whether the law means anything or not. And if it does mean something, I guess we'll learn whether National is actually still committed to that, or whether they want to return to the bad old days when employers could kill with abandon and walk free.