In 2016, a horrific accident occurred at the Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld. A raft carrying six people flipped after impacting another raft which had become stuck. The accident result in the deaths of four people. The ride was permanently shut down. This accident also set in motion the quest for Governments trying to implement Industrial Manslaughter across the different jurisdictions. Since this incident we have already seen workplace manslaughter become law in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Despite the political furore around the Dreamworld accident, charges for this incident have finally been laid down by the Safety Regulator and they are significantly lower than charges of industrial manslaughter. Instead Ardent Leisure Ltd (Ardent) were charged with three Category 2 breaches against “other persons”.
It is alleged Ardent failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of persons other than workers was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of its business by:
- providing and maintaining safe plant and structures;
- providing and maintaining safety systems of work; and
- providing the information, training, instruction and supervision that was necessary to protect all persons from safety risks arising from the Dreamworld undertaking.
These charges carry maximum penalty of $1.5 million per charge.
The final charges occurred after a coronial inquest into the accident was finalised. The coronial inquest found that Dreamworld had “frighteningly unsophisticated” safety systems with “obvious hazards” which could have been resolved had there been sufficient systems and processes in place. Nothing in the coronial inquest could prove that Ardent’s conduct was so negligent that it caused those deaths.
Ironically the case that brought industrial manslaughter to the forefront in Australia, itself, did not meet the threshold for the pre-industrial manslaughter most serious category one charge. As is often the case, legislative change originated out of an attempt for politicians to save their reputations in the face of public outcry. It remains to be seen how effective these industrial manslaughter laws will actually be in reducing these offences.