New health and safety tool helps school avoid close shave with prosecution

by Sol Dolor10 Apr 2017
Auckland school Saint Kentigern has dodged prosecution over a school production of Sweeney Todd last year that resulted in two students having their throats cut by a real razor used as a prop.

WorkSafe NZ agreed that the school could use an “enforceable undertaking agreement” under the Health and Safety at Work Act in what is the first instance the tool has been used.

The legally binding agreement, which can be provided as an alternative to prosecution, commits the school to undertake several corrective measures to prevent the recurrence of the accident or injury.

The use of the tool “could become an important instrument in developing a stronger health and safety culture in New Zealand” and “can also deliver a broader, societal good as WorkSafe’s intention is that the benefits should extend ‘to the works or workplace, the wider industry or sector and/or the community,’” said Chapman Tripp.

The enforceable undertaking does not require or amount to admission of guilt, which makes the tool an alternative for cases that might not succeed in court, the firm said.

WorkSafe investigated the incident and said that during the production, “there was a scene in which two characters were being shaved, followed by a simulation of these characters having their throats cut.”

The razors were wrapped in duct tape, but the two boys, who were immediately taken to the hospital after the April 2016 incident, still “received very serious lacerations to their throats,” the agency’s report said.

Under the agreement, the Auckland school must participate in a restorative justice process with the victims, pay an undisclosed amount in damages to the victims, and spend about $80,000 to improve health and safety standards at the school and across the country.

The victims have said they do not wish to be involved in prosecution, which they said may further traumatise them.

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