Peter Bateman is editor of Safeguard magazine and Safeguard Update newsletter. He has been instrumental in launching the annual NZ Workplace Health & Safety Awards (where he convenes the judging panel), the annual Safeguard National Health and Safety Conference, and the lively Safeguard question and answer online forum. In his spare time he tweets.

One Response

  1. Andrew McGregor
    Andrew McGregor at | | Reply

    Thanks Peter for spiking a little bit of provocative thought. An interesting study of how the crown treats organisational accidents like Pike RIver may be seen in Sacramento vs BIA [2005]. The Sacramento body corporate owners owned a large leaky building apartment in Botany. The Leaky Building Syndrome fits text book Organisational Accident Theory (OAT) very well. Under OAT, the BIA failures which were admitted by the Court of Appeal resulted in serious and unnecessary latent conditions which led to the nationwide LBS and Sacramento’s losses. Sacramento wanted to sue the BIA for damages. The Court of Appeal struck out BIA’s application for these reasons: The BIA is quasi judicial and therefore enjoys judicial immunity; the BIA was not sufficiently proximate to the sacramento owners; and the government did not provide the monitoring resources necessary for the BIA to prevent LBS. If a martian landed on planet Earth and studied this case to learn about how humans do fairness and justice, the poor creature would probably end up confused and disorientated.

    As our civilization develops, we will become increasingly interested in the front end of the accident timeline and this will intensify the gap between safety thinking and legal processes. Legal processes truncate causal evidence at the active end of the accident timeline, thus resulting in a simplistic medieval result. Safety processes on the other hand have to become more interested beyond this horizon and are develping greater holistic comprehensiveness than their legal counterparts. Regulators will come under increasing scrutiny from the public. This has already occured with the Civil Aviation Authority, the BIA and now the DOL. The crown will need to continue to defend the regulators whose mistakes will increasingly be made more obvious as public thinking develops and matures. Soon a crisis will erupt. The law will have to be refined and in the process, regrettably a few martyrs will fall.

    I look forward to a time when a judge will conclude his judgement in sympathetic favour of the defendent: ‘oh shit, that could have been me’.

    In the meantime, a second Erebus enquiry is brewing.

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