Liquidation no escape from health and safety failure

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WorkSafe New Zealand has held an Auckland businessman liable for failures that led to the death of a subcontractor, who fell from the roof of a house while spray painting.

Hon Sang Cheuk was the sole director of DMJ Painters Limited, which hired the painter for the job at Bucklands Beach in June 2020. No scaffolding was in place at the house, nor did Mr Cheuk check if the worker used the harness he was given for the job, or was trained and competent to use one.

DMJ Painters Limited was put into liquidation 49 days after the fall occurred, so Mr Cheuk himself was prosecuted for his failings as a company director under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. He has now been sentenced in the Manukau District Court.

“Individuals and directors have a range of health and safety responsibilities and liquidating your company does not absolve you of them,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Danielle Henry.

A WorkSafe investigation found inadequate risk assessment at the site, where no measures were in place to prevent the victim falling from the roof onto a concrete patio.

“Some form of edge protection should have been in place as a basic safeguard. It was easily foreseeable that a fall could occur, resulting in serious injury or death.

“The victim of this fall leaves behind a wife and son, whose lives are forever changed by a simple failure to put safety first,” says Danielle Henry.

Judge Forrest ordered reparations of $100,000 to be paid to the victim’s family, but no fine was imposed.

Read more about working safely at height

Read more about WorkSafe prosecutions

Background

  • Hon Sang Cheuk was sentenced at Manukau District Court on 27 July 2022.
  • Judge Forrest ordered reparations of $100,000 to be paid to the victim’s family.
  • Judge Forrest did not impose a fine due to Mr Cheuk’s financial circumstances.
  • Hon Sang Cheuk was charged under sections 44, 36(1), 48(1) and 48(2)(b) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Being an officer of a PCBU, namely DMJ Painters Limited (in liquidation), having a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that DMJ Painters Limited complied with its duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers whose activities in carrying out work were influenced or directed by the PCBU, while the workers were carrying out the work, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed other persons to a risk of death or serious injury.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $300,000.
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