20 Feb 2024

WorkSafe drops charges against police after pledge to improve safety for traffic camera operators

5:18 pm on 20 February 2024
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WorkSafe has dropped charges against the police after they pledged to improve safety for its traffic camera operators. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

WorkSafe has dropped charges against the police after a traffic camera operator was injured in a car crash.

A trial due to start next month will no longer take place as it has accepted a pledge from the New Zealand Police to improve safety for its operators instead.

An operator was struck by a car on the Upper Harbour Highway in the Auckland suburb of Greenhithe in August 2021.

The car driver died, and the operator suffered life-changing injuries.

New Zealand Police said the crash was a deliberate act by a member of the public who drove their vehicle at the mobile speed camera van at considerable speed.

The operator said he was lucky to survive being thrown from the parked van.

He spent three months in hospital recovering from a skull fracture, scalp lacerations, lung injuries, and fractures to his ribs and legs.

He said he was pleased to see police enter this agreement with WorkSafe.

"I hope it leads to long-term improvements, so nobody has to endure a repeat of what I've gone through," he said.

The pledge includes reparations to the injured operator, a new induction and training package for traffic camera operators, a new critical risk team and a framework for managing critical risks, and a presentation of lessons learned to the transport sector.

WorkSafe operations deputy chief executive Kane Patena said these recommendations would enable something positive to arise from serious harm.

"The aim is to bring about enduring health and safety change in a way that a fine through the courts may not have," he said.

WorkSafe would resume prosecution if the pledge was not upheld, he said.

New Zealand Police said these changes were required to ensure the safety of all 78 of their traffic control operators around the country.

They said this was the first incident of this nature in the 28 years of having mobile speed cameras.

Deputy Commissioner Jevon McSkimming said the operator's injury was felt deeply throughout the organisation.

"Safety of the community and our people is at the heart of everything we do at New Zealand Police," he said.

"New Zealand Police has invested considerable internal resource and capability to undertake this rectification work and is committed to continuous safety improvement."

In 2025, Waka Kotahi / NZ Transport Agency will begin operating speed cameras through a contracted third-party provider, using a different operating model to that of police.

Police will provide information on lessons learned and improvements made to Waka Kotahi to help inform its operation of mobile cameras.