Businessman Eric Gerritsen has been fined $115,000 for obstructing a WorkSafe New Zealand inspector who was investigating the collapse of an inflatable slide.
Mr Gerritsen’s trading entity Event Fun Unlimited was operating the ‘Mammoth Slide’ at the Masterton A&P Show in February when it collapsed. A number of children fell from the top platform – a height of 12 metres. Six children were taken to hospital for their injuries and one who fell from the top of the stairs has ongoing problems with a minor knee injury.
WorkSafe launched an investigation into the incident but Mr Gerritsen repeatedly failed to provide information and documents he was required to supply over a period of months. The Summary of Facts details a pattern of ignoring email and phone messages - despite warnings that failure to provide the information could be considered obstruction.
Mr Gerritsen was found guilty of one charge of obstructing a WorkSafe inspector under sections 48 and 50(1)(b) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. He was sentenced today in the Hamilton District Court.
WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says six children were injured when the slide collapsed and WorkSafe was trying to find out exactly what went wrong.
“By refusing to co-operate Mr Gerritsen effectively prevented WorkSafe from possibly learning valuable lessons for other inflatable slide operators to prevent similar incidents. It is unusual and irresponsible for a business owner not to assist with an investigation – particularly in a case, that as Judge Burnett emphasised today, involved the safety of children.
“The WorkSafe inspector was just doing her job – a job that comes with certain legal powers to request information as part of an investigation. Mr Gerritsen was repeatedly obstructive and such obstruction will usually result in legal consequences,” says Keith Stewart.