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Tour operator fined $250,000 for health and safety breach


16 February 2023

A tour group business operator has been fined $250,000 after the deaths of two international students who drowned in Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island in 2019.

The defendant was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court (8 February 2023) for failing in its primary health and safety duty which exposed the two students to the risk of serious injury or death.

The matter was heard by Acting Magistrate Costanzo (His Honour) where the defendant pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011(The Act) under sections 32 and19(2).

The group operated study tours for foreign travel agents and schools in Australia.

The court heard that in early 2019, the students were taking part in activities on Fraser Island as part of a guided tour booked by the defendant, when the students went swimming in the lake and tragically lost their lives.

His Honour determined that the defendant should have envisaged the dangers of drowning in the lake, and that it did nothing to search for, detect and eliminate so far as was reasonably practicable, risks to the safety of the students when they visited the lake that day.

It was accepted that the probability of drowning in these circumstances was very high, and that the business operator should have applied the simplest step imaginable – devoid of all complexity and expense, to inform the students that swimming wasn’t permitted in the lake. His Honour considered it a common-sense step.

A fine of $250,000 was imposed on the business operator, including $1,099.70 in costs, with no conviction being recorded.


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