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Final days of inquest into Dreamworld fatalities sees calls for new initiatives in theme park safety

Final days of inquest into Dreamworld fatalities sees calls for new initiatives in theme park safety
December 6, 2018

A major overhaul of theme park safety including mandatory major inspections has been proposed as part of evidence submitted into the Coronial inquest into fatalities at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld in October 2016.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Director Bradley Bick told the inquest, which resumed today (6th December), of his opinion that rides should be subject to mandatory major inspections every 10 years.

Inspections would involve a thorough examination of critical components, stripping down devices, and removing paint, grease and corrosion to ensure "effective and safe operation" of all theme park attractions.

Bick’s recommendations include the testing of ride operators to ensure they are competent to operate the attraction and for Workplace Queensland officers to have the right to undertake "spot checks" to ensure theme parks adhere to strict safety guidelines.

Bick told the inquest “this will provide a comprehensive physical check of the ride to ensure that the ride is safe.”

Bick also suggested that theme parks be required to adhere to a code of practice with minimum operational and safety standards.

However, with Coroner James McDougall not expected to hand down his findings until next year and Coronial recommendations being non-binding, there is no certainty that they will be adopted.

Bick’s draft recommendations are not likely, according to AAP, to be presented to the Queensland Government before March.

Also advising the inquest into the four fatalities on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride, safety experts stated mechanical hazards on the attraction meant "catastrophic incidents could have occurred at any time".

Commenting on the "massive water drop", which took less than 10 seconds, that led to three of the deceased being flung from the ride and into the mechanised conveyor the advisors confirmed that a crucial delay in stopping the ride caused the jammed raft to be shaken and a fourth person to fall from his seat and into the machinery.

Dr Frank Grigg, of Forensic Engineering Consultants, told the inquest the rafts should have been fitted with aircraft-style seat belts, advising "I believe one of the deceased would still be alive if the raft was fitted with aircraft-style lap belts.

"Why velcro (seat belts) were used is a mystery to me."

The inquest was also told there had not been enough thought about the potential risks when a pump failed, with ride operators "not schooled" on the loss of water.

The report stated the "excessive gap" between the conveyor slats and the fact the conveyor continued operating when the pump failed contributed to the accident.

It was also noted that "most" of the ride had been modified with "little or no consideration given to the effects of safety via a detailed and formal risk assessment process".

The safety report added “previous incident on the TRRR, particularly in 2001 and 2014 should have alerted Dreamworld to the hazards present on the ride.”

Image: The conveyor on Dreamworld's Thunder River Rapids ride prior to the October 2016 fatalities showing the "excessive gap" between slats referred to at the Coronial inquest today.

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23rd October 2018 - Ardent Leisure names casino and hospitality professional as new Dreamworld Chief Executive

19th October 2018 - Coroner seeks proof that all Dreamworld rides had safety certification

19th October 2018 - Dreamworld manager denies obstructing Queensland Police investigation during emotional Coronial inquiry testimony

18th October 2018 - Families cry as Dreamworld supervisor delivers tearful statement of sympathy over ride fatalities

16th October 2018 - Coroner seeks to have Dreamworld inquest extended

15th October 2018 - Dreamworld inquest told $3,000 water level sensor would have prevented tragedy

12th October 2018 - Dreamworld inquest delay as Ardent Leisure accused of being slow to hand over documents

9th October 2018 - Staff to sue Dreamworld over ‘significant psychological injuries’

8th October 2018 - Reopened Dreamworld inquest hears ‘everybody’ failed to ensure ride’s safety prior to fatalities

16th August 2018 - Queensland Government regulators left inspections of fatal ride up to Dreamworld

27th August 2018 - Dreamworld looks to attract visitors with entry fee drop and LEGO exhibition

25th June 2018 - Inquest evidence causing ‘irretrievable’ damage to Dreamworld’s reputation

4th April 2017 - Ardent Leisure Chief Executive ‘appeared to be ducking for cover’ following Dreamworld fatalities

14th December 2012 - WorkSafe Queensland issues health and safety exemptions for inflatables

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