Employer sentenced over zookeeper death

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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.”

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