Kiwirail Holdings Limited

Court Summary - at a glance

Date of offence:
6 November 2013
 
Plea:
• Section 6: Guilty
• Section 18: Not Guilty
 
Decision:
Convicted on both charges
 
Final decision date:
 
Fine imposed:
Not applicable.

Safety lessons learned:
  1. Ensure that the pre-work briefing and planning processes more fully addressed the potential hazards in the Otira tunnel, by:
  2. addressing in more detail the procedures for monitoring gas levels, and the appropriate response to elevated gas levels;
  3. reviewing in more detail the procedures for exiting from the tunnel, in particular in relation to the operation of the door and turning off the fans and involving the locomotive engineers in that process;
  4. providing clearer guidance around riding on wagons in long tunnels; and
  5. ensuring that documentation used to plan the operation was current.
  6. Although the decisions made by the work crew on 6 November 2014 to deviate from the work plan, or in response to forced deviations, were within the scope of decisions properly to be made by the work crew, the defendant could have provided fuller guidance on when work crews may deviate from a work plan. 

Defendant name:
Kiwirail Holdings Limited
 
Industry:
Postal, transport and warehousing
 
Date of offence:
6 November 2013
 
Facts in brief:
The Defendant is a state-owned enterprise which employs over four thousand staff amongst its four divisions; Kiwirail Freight, Kiwirail Interislander, Kiwirail Passenger and Kiwirail Infrastructure and Engineering.

The Defendant has engaged, on an ongoing basis, MBD Contracting Limited to assist with construction work and rail maintenance tasks.

The Otira Tunnel is a railway tunnel in the South Island, between Otira and Arthur’s Pass. It is over 8.5km long, and runs through the Southern Alps. The Otira end of the tunnel is over 250m lower than the Arthur’s Pass end.

The Defendant uses diesel locomotives to pull or push carriages through the tunnel. Because of the tunnel’s length and gradient, toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide could potentially build up within the tunnel. The method of extraction of fumes is a combination of doors and fans.

On 6 November 2013, seven of the Defendant’s employees and two contractors were working in the Otira Tunnel. They were exposed to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of elevated levels of gas fumes from motors used for operations and locomotives inside the tunnel.

The employees and contractors were also involved in a train derailment inside the tunnel. A swinging boom of a crane struck the wall of the tunnel causing a petrol powered generator to fall of a wagon. This had the potential to cause a fire due to the existence of coal dust in the tunnel.
 
Offence section:
• Sections 6 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
• Sections 18 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
 
Date charged:

Court:
Wellington - District Court
 
Plea:
• Section 6: Guilty
• Section 18: Not Guilty
 
Final decision date:
 
Decision:
Convicted on both charges
 
Fine imposed:
Not applicable.
 
Maximum fine available:
$250,000
 
Reparation:
Not applicable.