6 Sep 2020

Minister orders WorkSafe to seek external legal advice in future coronial inquiries

6:32 pm on 6 September 2020

The workplace safety regulator is promising to get better legal advice about whether to prosecute in cases where someone dies.

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Workplace Safety Minister Andrew Little has warned Worksafe it should get external legal advice when a coroner recommends prosecution. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

WorkSafe failed to act on a Coroner's recommendation to prosecute a truck company over a crash that killed two boys on the Desert Road at Easter in 2018.

In that case, though the Coroner said it appeared health and safety laws had been breached, WorkSafe sought no external advice from Crown Law before dropping it.

The boys' parents asked Workplace Safety Minister Andrew Little to intervene.

Time has run out on their case, but the minister has now ordered WorkSafe to get outside legal advice in future such cases wherever possible.

"I expect that when a coroner recommends that WorkSafe considers a prosecution or reconsiders its decision not to prosecute (even if alternative enforcement action is taken), WorkSafe will give full consideration to those recommendations, including seeking external legal advice where possible," Little wrote to WorkSafe chair Ross Wilson last month.

"This is consistent with the expectation ... that WorkSafe build public and stakeholder confidence in the effectiveness of the health and safety regulatory system."

Wilson responded that WorkSafe would consider external legal advice or, where it could not, would alert the minister to that.

*The headline has been updated to clarify that the letter calls for external advice within the context of coronial inquiries.

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