Learnings from Aimex

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou to all members and supporters of NZISM,

I’m sure that, like me, you have all been following the Aimex case and subsequent proceedings culminating in the sentencing of William and Stephen Sullivan at the end of July 2023. This case has been particularly interesting as it is one of the first cases that has proceeded through to criminal sentencing for individuals with jail time, and the outcome of this does set a precedent in terms of case law, noting that these were in the capacity of making a false statement and perverting the course of justice respectively.

The case highlights a number of key factors, the most obvious being:

  • the importance of acting when people raise health and safety concerns,
  • taking appropriate steps, and
  • following this up to ensure controls are effective.
This situation is an incredibly tragic reminder of why action is important.It also highlights the importance of accurate reporting to WorkSafe, not just because there is a legal obligation to do so, or because reporting and facilitating access to correct information may protect us as individuals, but also because it is the right thing to do and we have a professional obligation to do so. This relates strongly to our Code of Ethics, as well as those of our related disciplines.There will be occasions in all of our careers where we will encounter a lack of clarity, or a problem that we may not be able to resolve alone. That’s when we need to reach out to our colleagues for support and advice, to explore the options and aspects that we need to be mindful of. This is one of the most important facets of being a member of NZISM – it provides an essential community of practice and a connection to others who understand what we do and the challenges therein.Finally, the sentencing notes for William Sullivan also highlight the importance of fully understanding legislation and our personal responsibilities inherent in that:

[21] … it was your inactivity, your absolute dereliction of your duty as a health and safety officer which has led to an entirely preventable incident. Mr Palmer has been damaged for the rest of his life because you took the view that you would not abide by your obligations as a health and safety officer, for what reasons I do not know.

Again, this is an extremely painful reminder of exactly how important our profession is to the people around us, our staff, our colleagues, our clients, and our friends. It is equally important to note that this case is not reflective of all health and safety professionals. The vast majority of our health and safety community are doing the right thing to support the minimisation of harm at work across Aotearoa New Zealand. What we can do, is make sure we are well informed about our roles and responsibilities in our workplaces and reach out to our NZISM colleagues and other health and safety professionals when we need support.

The following resources may assist your understanding of the case:

Ngā mihi

Robyn Bennett
NZISM President