Ardent Leisure charged over 2016 fatalities at Dreamworld

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Thursday, 23 July, 2020 - 10:30
Industry news
National News

Ardent Leisure has been charged over the incident at Dreamworld in October 2016 in which four people lost their lives on the Thunder River Rapids Ride.

Queensland’s independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, Aaron Guilfoyle, charged Ardent Leisure (the owner and operator of Dreamworld) with three offences under s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, for failing to comply with its health and safety duty under the Act and exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death.

Each of the three charges alleges the company failed to comply with its primary safety duty under s.19(2) of the Act.

It is alleged Ardent Leisure failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable:

  1. the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures;
  2. provision and maintenance of safe systems of work; and
  3. the provision of information, training, instruction or supervision that was necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $4.5 million, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of a $1.5 million fine.

The referral of a brief of evidence to the Prosecutor by the Office of Industrial Relations followed the release by Coroner James McDougall in February this year of his findings resulting from an inquest into the tragedy.

The charges against Ardent Leisure will be mentioned in the Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday 29 July 2020.

Ardent Leisure released a statement in response to the charges and said there has been a considerable change at Dreamworld over the past few.

“Dreamworld has taken substantive and proactive steps to improve safety across the entire park and continues to enhance existing systems and practices, as well as adopt new ones, as we develop and implement our safety case in accordance with the Queensland Government’s new major amusement park safety regulations,” said Ardent Leisure Group Chairman Gary Weiss and Ardent Leisure Theme Parks Division CEO John Osborne in a joint statement.

“The new leadership team is committed to continuing to improve and enhance safety systems and practices with the aim of becoming a global industry leader in theme park safety and operations.”

Coroner James McDougall's report highlighted major shortcomings in Ardent Leisure’s leadership and said a “rudimentary and deficient” safety culture was a major contributor to the incident.

The report also pointed to a “systemic failure in all aspects of safety” and identified a number of reoccurring failures to undertake adequate risk assessments.

In response to the incident, the Queensland Government said it had strengthened Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s (WHSQ) capabilities through a stronger focus on enforcement and compliance, including comprehensive annual audits on all six major theme parks.

For more information and background read the article QLD Government refers Dreamworld to WHS prosecutor following the inquest, the AIHS media release in response to the inquest or the feature article in the latest issue of OHS Professional magazine.