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Fatal fall at tourist attraction

In October 2019, a patron died, and another was seriously injured while using a zipline attraction as part of a rainforest adventure tour.

Early enquiries indicate part of the zipline rope system has failed causing the two patrons to fall from a significant height.

Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

The use of adventure activity equipment such as zip lines, rafts and high rope courses allows participants to experience a range of pursuits in the natural environment. Equipment used in providing these experiences is often constructed in different ways to suit the activity and the operational environment.

Risks associated with adventure activities are generally classified under:

  • People - risks may include participants who are physically or psychologically unprepared for an activity or have known behavioural issues that affect the safety of the activity.
  • Equipment - risks may include insufficient gear for the group or an inferior standard of equipment.
  • Environment - risks may include adverse or unseasonal weather, sudden changes in river levels, high winds or danger from local wildlife.

(Source: Queensland Adventure Activity Standards - Challenge Ropes Course – Queensland Government)

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has duties under WHS legislation to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, but not limited to;

  • provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety
  • provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures
  • provision and maintenance of safe systems of work.

Risk management must be completed and a safe system of work in place when managing the risks associated with adventure activities. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking. Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps;

  • identify hazards – find out what could cause harm
  • assess risks – understand the possible harm, how serious it could be, and the likelihood of it happening
  • control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • review control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

You must always aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or a combination of the following:

  • Engineering - only use equipment according to their design and are free from any defects. Any components or equipment associated with the zipline should be used, inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications and instructions. In the absence of the manufacturer’s specifications and instructions, follow the instructions of a competent person.
  • Administrative controls - if risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example;
    • developing safe work procedures on zipline use while ensuring only authorised persons perform specific tasks
    • ensuring worker training, experience and competency is appropriate for the nature and complexity of their duties, and who are then able to inform participants
    • before commencing any maintenance work on ziplines, all components and equipment should be inspected by a competent or authorised person to determine if any wear, movement or alterations to the system have occurred.
  • Personal protective equipment - any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment. For example;
    • provision of helmets, harnesses, gloves.

    Additional guidance on the design, testing and inspection of zip line wire rope terminations will be provided in the soon to be published WHSQ guidance document Zip Line Terminations.

Statistics

From July 2014 to November 2019, WHSQ was notified of 11 incidents of people sustaining an injury falling from a zipline or high-rope activity. WHSQ has issued four statutory notices across all industries relating to the risk management of such incidents.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2019, a business was fined $40,000 after a participant was injured on a zipline tour. The participant was completing a run on the zipline when a component failed rendering the braking system inoperable. As a result, the participant was still traveling at speed nearing the end, colliding with a guide and a tree. The patron sustained serious injuries. An investigation found an inadequate inspection regime to identify hazards such as unacceptable wear in the reduction line existed. The business also failed to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the use of the zipline ropes. These failures created the risk of unacceptable wear to line components.

More Information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury? For advice and support, visit our Facebook page or email ohs.coronialliaison@oir.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
04 December 2019

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