13 June 2024

WorkSafe penalises Christchurch restaurant for multiple Covid-19 breaches

WorkSafe New Zealand has issued three infringement notices to The Lotus-Heart, a Christchurch restaurant for failing to comply with COVID-19 requirements.

According to the workplace safety regulator, The Lotus-Heart has failed to display signage signalling whether it requires My Vaccine Pass use or not in a prominent place, not displaying a QR Code in a prominent place and not having systems or processes to check My Vaccine Pass status of patrons. The combined infringement notices total $20,000.

This “unique temple-like vegetarian restaurant” is located on St Asaph Street in Christchurch and according to its website, “strives to provide a unique and peace-filled inner-city dining experience.”

“WorkSafe has been looking into this since September, and these infringement notices are the result of an unwillingness of the business to engage with WorkSafe or change their practices,” says WorkSafe’s Head of General Inspectorate Simon Humphries.

Lotus-Heart, Christchurch
Restaurant fined $20,000 by WorkSafe (Photo/ The Lotus-Heart website)

“Despite the business refusing to communicate with us, our inspector has gathered enough information to determine the business isn’t meeting even the bare minimum of what it’s supposed to do.

“I’m sure other hospitality businesses in Christchurch will be disappointed to learn about this business, but it’s not a reflection of the overwhelming majority of restaurants across the country who are working hard to look after their patrons.

“I know the hospitality industry has been needing to time to consider what the new rules mean for them and I want to reassure them we’re not jumping straight to infringement notices.

“When a concern is raised with WorkSafe we first look to talk to the business and check what they’re doing and if their practices are correct. If there’s a gap in their understanding we work with them to fix it and that’s normally the end of the matter. It takes a sustained period of observed non-compliance for us to escalate which is what’s happened with The Lotus-Heart.”

WorkSafe has warned the business may issue a fourth infringement notice if all its employees are not vaccinated.

“As the business is continuing to operate as a dine-in restaurant, workers must be vaccinated. Vaccination status hasn’t been determined at this point but if the business is found to be non-compliant in this area a separate infringement notice could be issued.”

The penalty for My Vaccine Pass breaches is $12,000, while QR Code and Vaccine Pass poster violations carry a $4000 fine.

Ironically, on their website the restaurant has assured its customers that “The health and wellbeing of our customers, staff and all is our highest priority..we are doing everything we possibly can for our common safety.”

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