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Chief Ombudsman: family ‘excluded’ by WorkSafe and Ministry of Education

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The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released the findings of his investigation into a complaint about the adequacy of WorkSafe’s investigation into an incident in 2016 where a child choked on a piece of sliced raw apple at an early childhood centre. The incident left the child with a severe lifelong disability.

Mr Boshier also looked into related concerns about the Ministry of Education’s involvement.

The family complained twice to WorkSafe about the accuracy of Worksafe’s investigation into the incident including that the agency did not identify any breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act so no compliance action would be taken.

WorkSafe said the concerns raised by the family were already considered or otherwise outside the scope of its investigation, and their complaint was best considered by the Ministry of Education who only received the complaint from WorkSafe a year later. The Ministry subsequently decided that no further action was necessary.

Mr Boshier identified a series of failures, including an inadequate investigation process and poor communication, and that WorkSafe’s interpretation of its own regulations and legislation was too narrow. He also found that the Ministry of Education’s communication was poor, citing little engagement with the family.

Mr Boshier made a number of recommendations including that WorkSafe and the Ministry apologise to the family of the child and consider ex-gratia payments, which have since been made by both agencies.

Read the case note

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