Could WINZ have done more?

03/03/2015

WorkSafe NZ is prosecuting the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) over the shooting of two WINZ staff in its Ashburton office.

The mother of a woman killed in Ashburton’s Work and Income shooting is disappointed her daughter’s employer has been charged over the incident, saying “nobody could foresee what was going to happen that day”.

WorkSafe NZ today laid a charge against the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) after the shooting on September 1 last year.

Russell John Tully, 48, was charged with the murders of Peg Noble and Susan Leigh Cleveland, and seriously wounding Lindy Curtis, at their Cass St office.

Another staff member, Kim Adams, was shot at as she ran out the back door.

WorkSafe NZ alleges the MSD failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work.

The charge, under section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, was laid in the Wellington District Court.

Cleveland’s mother, Kath Cleveland, said she was disappointed WorkSafe felt a charge was warranted as the shooting could not have been predicted. . .

“The only thing I can say is these WorkSafe people might see something in it that us everyday people don’t see. I don’t know if it is going to help or not,” she said.

Cleveland said her daughter never complained about feeling unsafe at work. . .

The court case will have to make the reason for the prosecution clear.

However, without any knowledge of what has motivated WorkSafe’s decision to prosecute and on the facts made public so far I am unpleasantly surprised by this decision which  will be concerning to all employers.

I have vague memories of a freezing company being prosecuted when an employee was injured as a result of a fight in its car park.

I can’t recall the details but do remember at the time wondering how it could have been the employers’ fault and that was my immediate reaction to the news of this prosecution.

Could WINZ have done more to protect its staff? That is now up to the court to determine.


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