Airtech Limited was called to clean a refrigeration unit in an enclosed chiller for NZ Hot House Group Limited (NZHH). Two workers were lifted via an LPG fuelled forklift, provided by NZHH, to the chiller evaporator unit by another worker. The workers spent two hours working on the unit with the forklift running about 50% of the time. After a lunch break they began cleaning another unit using the same LPG fuelled forklift. After approximately 40 minutes one worker ceased work feeling unwell - an ambulance was subsequently called. The two other workers continued working for 20 minutes before experiencing similar symptoms to the first - both workers eventually passed out. Emergency services arrived and treated the victims. The fire service measured the carbon monoxide levels in the chiller at 500 ppm; this is the highest reading the detector can make.

All workers were treated in hospital, with two of the three receiving specialist medical care at Devonport Naval Base.

Alleged Breach

Sections 36(1) (a), 48(1) and 2(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Summary of Enforceable Undertaking

NZHH Ltd will:

  • Provide amends in the form of payment to the victims; support to the victims; and ACC top-up.
  • Resource staff to attend external Health & Safety activities; and internal/on-site training and exercises.
  • Commission a report on the benefits to worker for safety in horticulture by implementing literacy and numeracy initiatives.
  • Publish and present to industry bodies regarding the incident; lessons learned; and activities taken to remedy short-comings.
  • Create a horticultural intern programme.

This enforceable undertaking has a total expenditure of at least $185,000.00

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  (July 2017); 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.
    • Two of the victims support an enforceable undertaking as a suitable enforcement outcome to the incident (one victim has left the country and not expressed a view).
    • Horticulture New Zealand supports the Enforceable Undertaking as an alternative to prosecution.
  • 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, NZHH has:

  • Expressed regret that the incident occurred; acknowledging that carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
  • Immediately taken remedial action to address the work practices that led to the incident.

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.
    • Charge filed in relation to this incident on the basis that there was both evidential sufficiency, and a public interest in initiating prosecution. Successful prosecutions 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 to NZHH by a prosecution not proceeding.

Date accepted

02 May 2018

Further information

View the full NZ Hot House Group Limited (NZHH) enforceable undertaking here.

Enforceable Undertaking - NZ Hot House Group Limited (NZHH) (PDF 2.4 MB)