The health and safety of customers must be a priority for businesses, WorkSafe New Zealand says, in light of a horrific sand boarding incident which killed a tourist on a family holiday in the Far North.
Jin Chang Oh was boarding the giant sand dunes at Te Paki when he slid into the path of a moving bus in February 2019. The South Korean national had been on a tour run by Sand Safaris 2014 Limited. His death was witnessed by his wife, son, daughter in law, and granddaughter.
A WorkSafe investigation found the company ineffectively identified and controlled the hazards and risks of sandboarding; it had not ensured riders were kept safe from vehicles and did not have an effective traffic management system in place.
Judge Philip Rzepecky agreed, saying “a clearly identifiable hazard” was overlooked and Mr Oh was “not to blame at all for what happened to him”. After a trial late last year the company was found guilty of health and safety failures, and has now been sentenced.
“The facts of this sad case speak for themselves. Allowing high-speed leisure activities to take place in such close proximity to moving vehicles without tightly managing the risks is asking for trouble,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Danielle Henry.
“Sand Safaris should have learned from an incident at the same location three years earlier, where a person sandboarding with another company was run over and seriously injured.
“Operators not only have a responsibility for their workers, but also their customers, and must not lose sight of that. While we want thrill-seekers to enjoy themselves, it’s critical that risks are not overlooked and businesses do what they can to keep people safe,” says Danielle Henry.
- Sand Safaris 2014 Limited was sentenced at the Whangārei District Court on 21 August 2023
- A fine of $200,000 was imposed, and reparations of $182,209.33 were ordered
- Sand Safaris was charged under sections 36(2) and 48(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed individuals undertaking sand boarding activities, including Jin Chang Oh, to a risk of death or serious injury.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.