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Queensland to implement new safety laws following Dreamworld tragedy report
The Queensland Government plans to implement all 58 recommendations from an audit following the Dreamworld theme park ride accident that killed four people in October last year.
Under sweeping changes to protect theme park and amusement attraction guests, as well people in other workplaces, industrial manslaughter laws will be introduced in Queensland while safety around amusement rides will also be tightened, including increased inspections and record keeping by operators, and possible licensing of people operating rides.
The changes follow the recommendations of a best practice review, commissioned after last year's Dreamworld Thunder River Rapids ride disaster and a fatal workplace accident at Eagle Farm racecourse last year.
The review of Queensland’s workplace health and safety laws has recommended a complete overhaul of the system, including a new licensing scheme, more stringent safety audits that could see rides pulled apart and checked piece by piece and a new Public Safety Ombudsman to oversee the sector.
Its release came as Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace introduced into the Parliament a new criminal offence of industrial manslaughter.
The review found that of 111 serious incidents on Australian rides between 2001 and 2016, “a significant number may be attributed to inadequate training or operator error”.
It advised that the high turnover of operators, especially for mobile amusement rides, was a major problem and the report questions why special licences are required to drive a forklift, but not to propel hundreds of people through the air on high-risk rides.
The report added “there is a clear need to increase the level of protection to the public by ensuring that these devices (amusement rides) are properly designed, maintained, inspected and operated.”
The review compares fun parks to ‘major hazard facilities’ that store, handle or process large amounts of dangerous chemicals, because both types of facilities carried the real risk of multiple fatalities, and says fun parks should be similarly regulated.
It continued “poor mechanical integrity and lack of modern safety control measures” were a “significant concern” for older rides and that local shows and school fetes were believed to be using rides more than 30 years old.
It also stated “there is a need to mandate major inspections in the regulation to ensure that all rides, especially older ones, are maintained and undergo major inspections at prescribed intervals to ensure that they remain in a safe condition.”
The report questions why special licences are required to drive a forklift, but not to propel hundreds of people through the air on high-risk rides.
It said a major inspection should be “an examination of all critical components of the amusement device, if necessary stripping down the amusement device and removing paint, grease and corrosion to allow a thorough examination of each critical component” and undertaken by an expert engineer.
The report proposes high-risk theme parks and travelling shows should require a special licence and be subject to six-monthly audits by specialist Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors, while medium-risk operators would hold a different licence with yearly audits.
It says at least two extra mechanical engineers would need to be appointed as specialist inspectors to administer the licensing regime and testing and additional specialist plant inspectors with engineering credentials would be needed in each regional area.
Amid suggestions that the new requirements may see older amusement rides removed from operation, the report says consultation with industry was still needed to shape all changes required.
The report also found the number of field inspectors had “not kept pace with increases in working population in Queensland” despite being comparable with NSW and Victoria.
The review pointed out that funding had “fallen in real terms and this has seriously hampered the ability of WHSQ to perform its role and keep pace with changes in the nature of work and the modernisation of work health and safety regulation”.
Advising that the new Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill seeks to implement the 58 recommendations in the Best Practice Review, Minister Grace stated “under our proposed laws, the maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter will be 20 years imprisonment for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender.
"Importantly, companies won't be able to hide behind elaborate corporate structures to evade their responsibilities."
Minister Grace said families affected by workplace deaths could "take heart that individuals or companies responsible will be held to account under our laws."
"Our harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent to employers who are tempted to cut corners when it comes to safety in the workplace."
Image: Dreamworld's former Thunder River Rapids.
10th August 2017 - QUEENSLAND AUTHORITIES FOCUS ON EKKA SAFETY
14th March 2017 - VILLAGE ROADSHOW THEME PARKS HIGHLIGHTS SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE SYSTEMS
13th March 2017 - PARKZ WEBSITE LAUNCHES SUPPORT OUR THEME PARKS CAMPAIGN
14th December 2016 - NON-COMPLIANCE IN ATTRACTIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT HAS ITS COSTS
29th October 2016 - QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT TO UNDERTAKE ‘SAFETY BLITZ’ ON THEME PARKS
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