$125,000 fine issued after young child injured in diving platform fall

A local council in Queensland was recently fined $125,000 over an incident in which a young child suffered serious injuries after falling from a diving platform at an aquatic centre.

The incident, which occurred on 3 January 2021, involved a 4-year-old girl who fell headfirst from a 3-metre diving platform onto the concrete below, suffering serious injuries, including fractures to her skull and vertebrae.

The local council-owned and operated aquatic centre comprised a number of swimming pools and a diving pool, which included a diving tower with diving platforms at heights of 3, 5, 7.5 and 10 metres.

At the time of the incident, patrons could pay an extra fee and be issued with a wristband that allowed them to access the diving tower.

The child’s family (including her parents and two sisters aged six and one) had paid a “general entry” fee to access the pool, which did not include the additional payment to access a diving tower.

They were not issued any wristbands upon entry, however, the 6-year-old and 4-year-old had seen others jumping off the diving tower and wanted to try it.

Their father walked them up to the 3-metre platform, where the lifeguard who was controlling jumping assured him that his daughters were fine to jump.

Accordingly, their father returned to the pool deck to wait for them to jump. The 4-year-old jumped off twice but fell through the guardrail onto the concrete below while waiting on top of the platform for her third jump.

A subsequent investigation revealed that, although the defendant had conducted a risk assessment of the aquatic centre, it:

  • Had not undertaken a specific risk assessment in relation to the use of the diving facilities by members of the public (including young children);
  • Did not have in place sufficient edge protection to guard against the risk of falling from height (including, for example, a barrier that could not be climbed or passed through);
  • Failed to provide sufficient supervision of the crowds waiting on the stairs and platform; and
  • Did not routinely check wristbands, meaning patrons who had not purchased ‘dive board entry’ still accessed the diving tower.

Following the incident, the diving tower was closed to the general public, and the defendant implemented many other safety measures, including drafting a lifeguard manual, completing a risk assessment of the tower for dive club usage, and ultimately installing permanent edge protection (by way of vertical bars) for the diving tower.

The local council was sentenced in the Southport Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to comply with its primary health and safety duty. The failure exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.

In sentencing, Magistrate White referred to the offence and elements, noting that health and safety duties are positive and require a duty holder to search for, detect and eliminate, so far as reasonably practicable, risks to health and safety.

Her Honour took into account the agreed statement of facts and, in mitigation, that the defendant had no previous convictions, had cooperated with the investigators and entered a plea of guilty, consequently saving the time and cost of a trial, and that it had also taken steps prior to seek to ensure the safety of patrons, and following the incident immediately closed the diving tower and took many other steps.

Her Honour convicted the defendant and ordered a fine of $125,000 and exercised her discretion to not record a conviction.