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Gold Coast City Council ordered to pay $125,000 fine after child’s diving platform fall

Gold Coast City Council ordered to pay $125,000 fine after child’s diving platform fall
February 15, 2024

Gold Coast City Council has been penalised with a $125,000 fine for failing to comply with its health and safety obligations at its Gold Coast Aquatic Centre over an incident that put a person at risk of death or serious injury.

The Council yesterday pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court to charges brought by WorkSafe Queensland over an incident that saw a four-year-old girl seriously injured after falling from the diving platform at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre. The child plunged headfirst into concrete from the platform at the Council’s main pool complex.

The Court was told the girl slipped through the guard rail and plummeted headfirst to the concrete below while waiting to use the Centre’s 3 metre diving platform in January 2021.

She suffered serious injuries - including fractures to her skull and vertebrae - and was hospitalised for almost a week.

As reported by the Gold Coast Bulletin, Work Health and Safety (WHS) prosecutor Gretchen McKinley said the girl’s family had not paid the extra fee for her and her six-year-old sister to use the diving tower at the Southport complex, but their father was assured by an on-duty lifeguard that it was safe for them to jump.

Defence barrister Christopher Murdoch said the council accepted it was “an omission” to not complete a specific risk assessment for the diving tower being used by members of the public, which could have identified the risk of someone falling near the back of the platform.

Advising that comprehensive safety measures were already in place including multiple lifeguards, safety signage, and children under 12 needing to be closely supervised by an adult, Murdoch stated “(it’s) a very unfortunate and regrettable circumstance where a little girl has fallen through the guard rail that was in place.

“It’s a risk that of course with the benefit of hindsight one can see was reasonably foreseeable, but in my submission Your Honour wouldn’t consider it … an obvious risk of which my client ought to be acutely aware.”

The Court was told the diving tower was closed to the public following the incident and that the Council had since implemented further safety measures and staff training, including adding vertical bars to parts of the guard rails.

Magistrate Joan White said she accepted it was the Council’s first such breach, and that the diving tower met building standards with access closely monitored at the time.

Magistrate White also found concerns about “uncontrollable patrons” raised in an email from a lifeguard to senior management months earlier had not played a role in the girl’s fall, noting “while the (Council) had conducted a risk assessment of the centre, it had not undertaken a specific risk assessment in relation to the use of the diving facilities by members of the public.” 

The Council was also ordered to pay $1601.40 in court costs. No conviction was recorded.

Image: Diving platforms at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre (top) and the facility from the air (below).

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