A Queensland tourism operator has been fined $40,000 by a Magistrates Court after a woman received serious pelvic injuries following a zipline tour that went wrong in July 2016.
Prior to the incident, the tour guides together with the woman, her partner and a family of four had successfully completed three ziplines. While the group was preparing to commence the fourth and final flying fox, they were advised the final one had a different braking system. The guides told the participants the magnetic braking system allowed for more speed, and would stop automatically if trouble arose.
The woman wanted to travel at speed in the cannon ball position and the guide encouraged her to do so. As she was nearing the end, the reduction line snapped, causing the brakes to fail. Still travelling at speed, she collided first with a guide and then with a tree and rebounded approximately five metres. She spent four days in hospital with multiple pelvic fractures requiring surgery.
The court found the breach of work health and safety laws was two-fold. First, there was not an adequate inspection regime to identify hazards such as unacceptable wear in the reduction line. Secondly, the defendant failed to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding the use of the zipline ropes. These failures created the risk of unacceptable wear to line components.
It was shown that the tourism operators decision to install the new braking system was based on safety considerations. The system was sold to the operator as a more efficient unit for the pitch of the line. The line had been in operation for four months prior to the incident.
The Magistrate acknowledged the businesses employees were not operating in a reckless manner and had taken steps to manage risks. The failure to cover the rope, as per the instruction manual, was not deliberate.
The magistrate considered the defendant's cooperation with the investigation, the remorse shown, the steps taken to assist the woman and the early guilty plea. He also acknowledged the injuries in this case were significant and fined the defendant $40,000. No conviction was recorded.
The Office of Industrial Relations is considering the Magistrate's decision in terms of adequacy of penalty.