Whakaari Update – GNS Science pleads guilty to a reduced charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)
Following the December 2019 eruption on Whakaari, WorkSafe laid two charges against GNS Science (GNS) under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). With the subsequent dismissal of the primary charge, the only charge that remained against GNS was a charge under section 48 of the HSWA. This remaining charge alleged that GNS failed to ensure the health and safety of helicopter pilots providing transport services for GNS staff to and from Whakaari between 4 April 2016 and 4 December 2019. This charge is unrelated to the tragic events which occurred on 9 December 2019.
Today, GNS pled guilty to a reduced charge under section 49 of the HSWA. This acknowledges that GNS failed to sufficiently consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with the helicopter operators which took GNS staff to and from, and landed on, Whakaari between 4 April 2016 to 4 December 2019 – the date of the last such trip.
In pleading guilty to this reduced charge, GNS is acknowledging that there should have been a more structured exchange of information with the helicopter operators about the risk presented by travel to and from Whakaari on GNS staff trips.
Importantly, the reduced charge does not allege the helicopter pilots were exposed to a risk of death or serious injury as a result of this breach.
Whilst we are unable to make any further comment while this remains an active legal matter, GNS Science extends its ongoing sympathy to the families of the victims and recognises the ongoing impacts the 2019 eruption, and subsequent investigations, continue to have on the wider community.