The operator of the Tui Ridge Park near Rotorua (Seventh-day Adventist Church Property Trustee (NZ) Ltd) has been fined $46,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $40,000 to a woman who fell while taking part in a high ropes course.
The woman was at the park as part of a team building event in November 2014. One activity involved crossing a ‘high beam’ while attached to a harness, rope and belay system. Once she had crossed the ten-metre high beam the belay system was used to lower her to the ground.
The belay was operated by two of her colleagues, who had received instruction from park staff in its use. She had safely descended approximately 7 metres when the first belyer lost control and appears to have pulled the wrong lever – causing the victim to fall the final 3 metres rapidly to the ground. The secondary belayer was concentrating on trying to keep the first belayer on the ground (as she was having difficulty keeping grounded) and may have dropped the rope.
The victim suffered serious injuries including spinal fractures and spinal cord injury.
A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found that the ropes and structure were in good working order but the level of instructor qualification and supervision was not in line with industry good practice or the company’s own Code of Practice.
Seventh-day Adventist Church Property Trustee (NZ) was found guilty on one charge of failing to take all practicable steps to keep a paying customer safe at a place of work, under sections 16(2)(b)(i) and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. It was sentenced yesterday in the Rotorua District Court.
WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says high rope and high beam activities need more than just the right gear to make them safe.
“The victim in this case put herself in harm’s way expecting that the staff and the company running the park knew what they were doing and would keep her safe. If the Tui Park workers had been better qualified and had supervised the activity more closely this incident might have been avoided.
“This incident affected others involved too - including the victim’s colleagues who were operating the belay – and reinforces the need to ensure all safety systems are operating well,” says Keith Stewart.