Workplace Health and Safety QLD has announced it is investigating theme park Dreamworld after its parent company referred two separate incidents to the state’s safety regulator.
One week ago, Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, contacted Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to notify the safety regulator of two incidents, which it is now investigating.
News of Dreamworld’s parent company notifying the Queensland safety regulator comes just months after Ardent Leisure paid millions in fines and received three charges under the Work Health and Safety Act for the death of four patrons in a 2016 accident.
The operator pleaded guilty and was fined $3.6 million for the tragic accident that resulted in the deaths of Cindy Low, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Kate Goodchild.
Workplace Health and Safety QLD (WHSQ) launched its investigation after the two referrals from Ardent Leisure prompted the safety regulator to step in.
According to reports, “a ride engineer narrowly escaped injury while performing maintenance work on the Pandemonium ride. It’s understood one of the ride’s three tonne arms fell, but missed the worker.”
That was in addition to a separate “minor event” related to Dreamworld’s Triple Vortex water slide at its waterpark, WhiteWater World last weekend.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued a statement saying that “Workplace Health and Safety Queensland confirms that Ardent Leisure has recently notified it of a near-miss incident during maintenance on the Pandemonium ride and another minor incident last Saturday where a patron was cleared of any serious injury after riding the Triple Vortex tube slide.”
“To ensure patron and worker safety, WHSQ has taken action and continues to investigate these matters,” the safety regulator said.
To make things worse, reports are stating that “the incidents come after an eight-year-old girl had been rushed to hospital after suffering serious internal injuries on the Fully6 waterslide last month.”
Dreamworld’s owner and operator Ardent Leisure has issued a statement in relation to the two incidents, saying that the company is committed to improving its track record on safety in an open and transparent manner.
“We reported an event to WHSQ which occurred in our Engineering Centre during scheduled maintenance, [and we] are working cooperatively with them and have received confirmation that they are satisfied with our actions.”
“We acknowledge a minor event that took place on the Triple Vortex slide at WhiteWater World and we confirm that a notice was not issued by WHSQ… WHSQ have advised they are satisfied with our actions in relation to this matter,” the statement read.
Looking back to the 2016 event that killed four Dreamworld patrons, shortly after an investigation, Queensland Coroner, James McDougal said that Dreamworld’s safety systems and maintenance routines were “frighteningly unsophisticated,” describing them as “rudimentary at best.”
The Coroner said that a “systematic failure,” combined with “shoddy record-keeping” and a “frighteningly unsophisticated” safety system failed to protect patrons, adding that it is “reasonably suspected that Arden Leisure may have committed an offence under workplace law.”
In response to the Coroner’s comments, Ardent Leisure issued a statement saying that “Dreamworld has taken substantive and proactive steps to improve safety across the entire park and continues to enhance existing systems and practices, as well as adopt new ones, as we develop and implement our safety case in accordance with the Queensland government’s new major amusement park safety regulations.”
“The new leadership team is committed to continuing to improve and enhance safety systems and practices with the aim of becoming a global industry leader in theme park safety and operations,” Ardent Leisure’s statement concluded.
The news of QLD Workplace Health & Safety investigating Dreamworld goes to prove the importance of both a Safety System like ISO 45001 and a risk-based thinking approach to management.