St Kentigern College: Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe NZ following student injuries

WorkSafe New Zealand has accepted an Enforceable Undertaking from the St Kentigern Trust Board following an incident in which two students had their throats cut with a razor in April 2016 during a school production of the play Sweeney Todd.

WorkSafe's investigation found that the Board had breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 by failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of students.

This is the first time that WorkSafe has used the enforceable undertaking provision under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, as an alternative to prosecution.

It marks a new era of safety enforcement in NZ schools.

In relation to this incident, it is alleged that the Trust Board breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 by:

  • not implementing a system to adequately identify hazards that could give rise to reasonably foreseeable risks to health and safety arising out of the production
  • not implementing adequate control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks of sustaining injuries from razor blades used in the production, including an adequate system to inspect and track the razor blades
  • not establishing an effective incident and investigation reporting system for incidents arising out of the production
  • not providing adequate training or instructions to students on the use of razor blades necessary to protect them from risks to their health and safety arising out of the production.

Under the Enforceable Undertaking, the St Kentigern Trust Board has:

  • accepted full responsibility for the incident and the harm which was caused as a result
  • committed to a restorative justice process with the victims of the offending, including the payment of reparation as an outcome
  • taken steps to improve health and safety within the wider education sector, through development of health and safety guidelines and the building and delivery of training, for the benefit of schools nationwide.

For more information, please see the WorkSafe press release, the Worksafe Decision on Request for Enforceable Undertaking, the full text of the Enforceable Undertaking Agreement and a report on the incident by NZ Herald: Real razor used in school show.

This case highlights the need for schools to have appropriate risk management procedures in all school areas to ensure student safety and compliance with the law. This includes identification, assessment and control of risks as well as appropriate incident reporting and adequate training of staff and students.