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Ashburton WINZ Shooting, Health and Safety Implications

Published 09 Oct 2016

On 1 September 2014, Mr. Tully entered the Ashburton office of Work and Income New Zealand and shot four employees, killing Peggy Noble and Leigh Cleveland.  Mr. Tully was subsequently convicted of their murders.

WorkSafe NZ charged the Ministry of Social Development for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure its employees would not be exposed to the hazard of violent clients.  

In deciding the case, the District Court Chief Judge Doogue first considered whether Mr. Tully was a reasonably predictable hazard.  Although a lone mission-orientated gunman was not, the Judge said that it was reasonable for the Ministry to have predicted situational violent offenders who may become frustrated at the denial of service or delays.  The hazard could be in the form of a client being assaultive, or assaultive with a weapon other than a firearm e.g. knives, hammers, sticks and bottles.

The Judge then found that the Ministry had failed to address this hazard.  Greater physical restrictions to stop the public accessing staff areas were a reasonably practicable step that the Ministry could have taken.  The Judge suggested a zoning model would have been an effective step in minimising the harm, including:
  • a physical barrier to delay an attacker;
  • an escape route;
  • a secure zone that clients do not have access to; and
  • sightlines between client interactions and security or other employees.

The Judge also said that employees and contractors should be given adequate training in order to respond to an emergency incident.  

Although this case is particular to the Ministry and its’ Ashburton office, it highlights the hazards which businesses providing client services must consider.  Expert evidence heard in this case indicated that there is a global trend of increased client-initiated violence for many service industries – including jobs which handle money, carry out inspection or enforcement procedures, or provide care and services to people who are distressed, fearful, ill or incarcerated.  This hazard should be addressed in Health and Safety systems.

Businesses who have a high level of public interaction, and in particular where there is a risk of disgruntled clients and client-initiated violence, should review their work place design, current zoning model and security. 

Up to date risk assessment systems after HSWA 2015 and emergency procedure templates are available to all Health & Safety subscribers in the Employers Toolbox.