Employer sentenced over zookeeper death

Hamilton City Council pleaded guilty over the workplace fatality and a court laid out fines and reparations earlier today.

Employer sentenced over zookeeper death
Hamilton City Council has been sentenced over a shocking workplace death, almost a year to the day after a zookeeper was fatally mauled by a tiger.

Employee Samantha Kudeweh was killed at Hamilton City Zoo on 20th September, 2015 – a subsequent WorkSafe investigation found that the council, as the operator of the zoo, had failed to take a number of practicable steps to ensure workplace safety.

“As an employer, Hamilton City Council had a duty to implement safety systems, administrative and mechanical, to ensure that staff never came into direct contact with the tigers, including in the event that a gate was accidentally left open,” said chief inspector Keith Stewart.

“Working with large carnivores like Sumatran tigers will always come with the highest possible risk – there are no second chances if you come into direct contact with a dangerous animal,” he added, noting that the incident has been completely avoidable.

The council pleaded guilty on 9th June, 2016 and was today ordered to pay fines of $38,250 plus reparations of $5,180 to each of Kudeweh’s two children.

Judge Denise Clark, who presided over the case, said $100,000 was appropriate emotional harm reparation for Kudeweh's family but noted the council had already made voluntary repayments of $116,000.

However, Kudeweh’s husband has insisted no such payment have been made and in fact part of the payment was related to an employment conract.

"I think it's a farce,” he following the sentence today.

“"The punishment for not taking all practical steps is really nothing, you get away with it in the current system.”

Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up-to-date with the world of HR. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from HRD New Zealand.

Recent articles & video

How to build a succession plan

Are you an innovative HR team

What do employers really think of job hoppers?

Exclusive feature: The New Way to Experience HR

Most Read Articles

When can interns sue for minimum wage payment?

What does cannabis legalisation mean for employers?

Inside WPP AUNZ’s parental leave policy