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


26 February 2024

A fine of $125,000 has been handed to a local government after a serious accident at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in Southport left a four-year-old girl with fractures to her skull and vertebrae.

The young girl fell headfirst from the centre's three-metre diving platform onto the concrete below, after falling through a guard rail while waiting to jump in January 2021.

Magistrate Joan White ordered the defendant to pay $125,000 in the Southport Magistrates Court after entering a plea of guilty. No conviction was recorded.

The diving tower at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre is commonly used for training and competition by diving associations. At the time of offending, and usually during school holidays, patrons could pay an extra fee and be issued with a wristband which allowed them to access the diving tower.

The child's family (including her parents and two sisters aged six and one) had paid a "general entry" fee to access the pool, which did not include the additional payment to access the diving tower.

The court heard that the family were not issued any wristbands upon entry. However, the children had seen others jumping off the diving tower and wanted to try it. Their father walked them up to the 3-metre platform, where the lifeguard who was controlling jumping assured him that his daughters were fine to jump.

Accordingly, their father returned to the pool deck to wait for them to jump. The 4-year-old jumped off twice, but while waiting on top of the platform for her third jump, fell through the guardrail onto the concrete below.

An investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland found that while the defendant had conducted a risk assessment at the Centre several other factors had not been addressed. These included not undertaking a specific risk assessment in relation to the use of the diving facilities by members of the public (including young children); not having in place sufficient edge protection to guard against the risk of falling from height, failing to provide sufficient supervision of the crowds waiting on the stairs and platform and not routinely checking wristbands, meaning patrons who had not purchased 'dive board entry' still accessed the diving tower.

Following the incident, the diving tower was closed to the public, and the defendant implemented many other safety measures, including drafting a lifeguard manual, completing a risk assessment of the tower for dive club usage, and ultimately installing permanent edge protection (by way of vertical bars) for the diving tower.

In sentencing the defendant, Magistrate White noted that health and safety duties are positive and require a duty holder to search for, detect and eliminate, so far as reasonably practicable, risks to health and safety.

In mitigation, her Honour considered the defendant had expressed regret. She also took into account that the defendant had no previous convictions and had cooperated with the investigators, entered a plea of guilty which consequently saved the time and cost of a trial, and had also taken steps to improve safety for patrons, and following the incident immediately closed the diving tower.

Her Honour also emphasised that the nature of the child’s injuries was very serious and that she had also considered the Victim Impact Statement provided by the child’s parents, concluding that the lives of their whole family had been turned upside down through effectively no fault of theirs.

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