Fireworks company fined after spectators injured at All Blacks match

15/10/2015 17:21


15 October 2015

The company behind the fireworks failures which injured three spectators at an August 2014 All Blacks match has been fined $52,500 under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, $31,500 under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, and ordered to pay reparations to two victims.

Van Tiel Pyrotechnics Limited (VTPL) was sentenced in the Auckland District Court today on one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failures that led to the spectators’ injuries, and six charges under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act for failing to identify, label and track explosive substances.

The explosion occurred during an All Blacks v Australia test match on 23 August 2014 when two on-field pyrotechnics known as “fireball” devices malfunctioned, causing an unintended explosion.  The force of the explosion shattered the mortars throwing fragments into the crowd and hitting the three spectators.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s investigation revealed systemic failings in VTPL’s standard operating and quality control procedures and its management of explosive substances. The fireball devices that failed were manufactured by the company using the incorrect mix of substances.  This produced contaminated fireball devices that were highly explosive and dangerous.  The company had also failed to properly label explosive substances and had inadequate tracking systems for its hazardous substances and pyrotechnic compositions.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says the laws and regulations for explosive substances are designed to protect people – those working with explosive material and, in this case, those watching displays using the material. 

“These devices are dangerous, and fortunately the injuries sustained by spectators were not life threatening.  But, each of them, and the tens of thousands of others at Eden Park that night, had an absolute right to expect they would be safe and that the pyrotechnic company was working within the law.” 

“VTPL’s failure to have proper systems in place also put their workers at risk and they too have the right not to be exposed to risk from basic systems failures”, Mr Stewart said.

Note: Van Tiel Pyrotechnics Limited was ordered to pay reparations of $3000 to two victims who had not previously resolved with the New Zealand Rugby Union. The first victim will also receive $160 to cover the cost of the match tickets, while the second victim will receive $2122 for match tickets and costs associated with travel and accommodation from Australia.