The director of a Matamata construction company whose worker was buried alive has been ordered to four months' home detention and his company is to pay $177,320 in fines and reparation.
Michael Kevin Haines died on May 27 2014 after being buried when a newly dug trench collapsed on a work site on Rapurapu Rd, near Matamata. He was covered in 8 tonnes of soil and could not be dug out despite attempts by Steelcon Construction director Rodney Stephen Bishop and his workmates.
Bishop was sentenced at Hamilton High Court today to four months' home detention for failing to take practicable steps that its employee Mr Haines was not exposed to the hazard of a trench collapse at work.
Steelcon Construction, which is no longer operating, had earlier pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act and was ordered to pay a $97,000 to Haines' widow Krystle and four children, $14,320 to his parents Kevin and Beatrice and $10,000 to his daughter Heaven who he had from a previous relationship. The company was also fined $56,000.
At the sentencing today Justice Murray Gilbert said more steps should have been taken to help prevent Mr Haines' death and told Bishop it was his responsibility to ensure Mr Haines did not enter the site. He had worked for the company as a labourer for three-years prior to his death.
Justice Gilbert said Mr Haines was "much-loved" and acknowledged the on-going suffering his death had caused his wife and his five children which were aged between five months and 16 years when he died.
He said Mrs Haines would continue to suffer significant emotional harm. She was having to comfort their children while dealing with the immense loss herself.
"This is not an exercise in trying to come up with a figure that could compensate for the loss of a life," he said.
Crown prosecutor Ross Douch said Mr Haine's wife had been left with emotional strain of having to care for four children alone and carry the financial burden of raising them.
Steelcon Construction lawyer Jonathan Temm said it was "a tragedy all around" and the system could not compensate for the loss of life.
The reparation was reduced due to an early plead, general remorse, the company having insurance and an early payment of $80,000 being given to Mr Haines' widow.
Mr Haines' family declined to comment after the sentencing.
The Pike River Coal case where compensation was given to 21 families was used as a benchmark in a lengthy discussion to establish the appropriate reparation amount.