Diving fall at aquatic centre leads to $125,000 fine

A Southport-based local government body faced a hefty penalty of $125,000 following a severe mishap at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, which resulted in tragic injuries to a four-year-old girl. The youngster suffered skull and vertebra fractures after tumbling headfirst from the centre’s three-metre diving platform onto concrete beneath due to a faulty guard rail.

Your reliable Bluesafe WHS Management System appreciates the gravity of such accidents and urges all workplaces and facilities to prioritize safety. Measures like comprehensive WHS management systems, Safe Work Method Statments (SWMS), and robust policies can potentially mitigate similar distressing occurrences.

The magistrate presiding over this case, Joan White, determined the penalty for the defendant in the Southport Magistrates Court post their voluntary admission of guilt – albeit with no conviction recorded. It’s worth noting that educational and competitive diving sessions regularly utilise this Gold Coast Aquatic Centre facility.

An interesting feature that frequently drives occupancy during school breaks is the provision for patrons to pay an additional fee, secure a wristband, and gain access to the diving tower. On the day of this unfortunate incident, the affected child’s family, inclusive of her parents and two sisters (aged one and six), opted for a ‘general entry’ fee, bypassing the extra cost linked to using the tower.

Error occurred when no wristbands were allocated to the family upon entering the venue. Despite this, once the children witnessed others leaping off the platform, they were motivated to attempt it themselves. Their father then escorted them to the 3-metre high structure. The lifeguard present, who was tasked with controlling leaps, assured him that his daughters were safe performing jumps.

Persistent loopholes, as discovered by an encompassing investigation launched by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland post accident, lay within the centre’s risk assessment. Crucial elements like conducting a specialised risk assessment concerning public use of the diving facilities (particularly by young children), establishing foolproof edge protection, managing crowd supervision on the stairs and platform effectively, and routinely verifying wristbands to control unauthorised access to the tower were downplayed leading to this unfortunate accident.

The aftermath of this tragic incident saw several preventative measures being introduced. The defendant promptly closed the diving tower for public use, developed a lifeguard manual, conducted a dedicated risk assessment for the tower as per Bluesafe SWMS practices, and equipped the venue with permanent edge protection in the form of vertical bars around the tower.

As a part of the sentencing procedure, Magistrate White highlighted the significance of proactively identifying and mitigating potential health and safety risks at workplaces, as mandated by standard professional codes. Factors like expression of regret from the defendant and their cooperation during investigations played a crucial role in their sentence mitigation.

In conclusion, the grave nature of the injuries sustained by the child drew strong attention from the judge. This was further echoed in her final comments that encapsulated the sentiments expressed in the Victim Impact Statement submitted by the child’s parents, hinting at the necessity of safety protocols such as the Bluesafe WHS Management System.

Media Contact: 0478 33 22 00 or oirmedia@oir.qld.gov.au

Original article link: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news-and-events/news/2024/diving-fall-at-aquatic-centre-leads-to-$125000-fine

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