A council has been sentenced for its part in failing to keep people safe in a giant inflatable slide collapse, despite the slide being operated by another party.
Thames Coromandel District Council authorised JTK Trustee Limited to operate the slide at the Whangamatā Summer Festival in December 2020. A dozen people, most of whom were children, fell from heights of up to 12 metres. A father on the slide, Louwan Van Rooyen, broke both his ankles and has required 11 surgeries since.
In August 2022, JTK Trustee Limited was fined $350,000 and ordered to pay reparations of over $40,000 over the incident. Now, the council has now been ordered to pay reparation to Mr van Rooyen, for its failure to manage a shared risk.
“Over and above the operator’s obvious failures, the council plainly failed to do its due diligence on an operator with a poor safety record,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.
WorkSafe found JTK applied to the council using an old form which didn’t require confirmation the slide met safety standards. A permit was given three days after JTK applied, without the council doing any of the checks recommended by its own staff.
After the incident expert reports found the slide was electrically unsafe, had air leaks via holes and seams, and poor anchoring.
“Businesses and organisations that consent and permit events and equipment cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for health and safety when things go wrong. Whānau should have the confidence that public events they attend are being run in a safe manner,” says Paul West.
Slide users can keep safe by looking for the AS 3533 label, which should be prominently displayed on inflatable slides from reputable manufacturers, and can ask the supplier or operator about their practices and how it can be used safely.
- Thames Coromandel District Council was sentenced at Tauranga District Court on 24 March 2023
- Judge Bill Lawson ordered reparations of $10,000 but no fine.
- The council was charged under sections 34(1) and (2)(b) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
- Being a PCBU who had a duty in relation to members of the public attending the event at Williamson Park, Whangamata, including the victim, failed to, so far as was reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate with and co-ordinate activities, with all other PCBUs who had a duty in relation to the same matter, namely JTK Trustee Limited.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $100,000.
- Businesses that work together can share health and safety duties in relation to the same matter. These are known as overlapping duties. While a business can enter into reasonable agreements with other businesses, they must still monitor the other business to ensure they do what is required.