Thursday, September 3, 2020

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Dreamworld Coronial Inquest: Key actions to reduce risk exposure in your organisation

The Dreamworld Thunder River Rapids Ride incident will forever be remembered as a tragic loss of life. Through the coronial inquest, we’ve come to understand that accidents such as this one can occur when organisations don’t have the right frameworks in place. While we like to think we have our risks well managed, it doesn’t matter how many layers of control exist, incidents will occur if those layers are ineffective.  Following on from the webinar by Verus Managing Director, Cameron Clark and Honan’s Sharon Rutherford, Head of Risk Consulting, here are three key actions to help you reduce organisational risk.

  1. Examine Governance and assurance activities supporting Senior Management

Findings from the Dreamworld Coronial inquest demonstrate how poor governance activities can undermine organisational decision-making. Senior management have obligations under WHS law to exercise due diligence. Exercising that due diligence and making decisions that impact on organisational health and safety requires access to up-to-date knowledge of health and safety legal requirements and an understanding of the organisation’s critical risks. The recent introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws across a number of jurisdictions in Australia will only increase the importance of effective governance and assurance going forward.

Ask yourself the following questions about your governance and assurance activities:

  • Are they well designed?
  • Are they commensurate with risk?
  • Are they independent?
  • Are they followed through?

  1. Identify and manage your risks

The findings from the inquest revealed a failure by the organisation to systematically manage health and safety hazards and risks across the organisation and its rides. It failed to ensure that systems and procedures designed to support the organisation were properly implemented. Consequently, there were numerous missed opportunities for Dreamworld to identify risks, implement measures to prevent reoccurrence of incidents, and ensure their employees had suitable competencies to operate rides and respond in emergencies.

Ask yourself the following questions about your risks:

  1. Are systems regularly tested to ensure they are working as intended?
  2. Does their design allow for proper consultation with experts?
  3. Are there suitable resources (including people, training and regular auditing) available to pick up on warning signs and investigate?
  4. Is risk used effectively to inform organisational decision-making?
  5. Are people properly trained/qualified to undertake safety management tasks?
  6. Does training for high risk tasks include suitable instruction in emergency response?

  1. Consider your plant and equipment maintenance

The Dreamworld incident highlights how quickly a catastrophic incident can occur when it involves plant and equipment that is poorly managed and maintained. It took just over a minute for four people to be trapped in the mechanism of the Thunder River Rapids Ride following the failure of an associated water pump. Plant and equipment, particularly complex systems, demand a comprehensive program to ensure safe design, modification, operation, repair and maintenance in accordance with strict legislative requirements.

Ask yourself the following questions about your plant and equipment:

  • Are plant and equipment designs and maintenance programs adequate?
  • Have designs and maintenance programs kept pace with industry advances, legal obligations and Australian standards?
  • Are plant systems, including emergency systems, integrated?
  • Are plant modifications informed by risk assessment?
  • Are faulty plant / breakdown procedures robust and well understood and problems fixed rather than ignored?
  • Are operator tasks commensurate with the available time and human cognitive abilities?

If you missed the webinar, you can view the recording here.

We’re with you all the way

We’re pleased to support businesses in addressing risks and building overall resilience. As always, we recommend close consultation with your Broker and WHS Specialist to ensure your risk mitigation strategies are up to date, focused on best practice and are appropriately audited.  To learn how Honan can further support your business, please reach out at any time.

Sharon Rutherford – Head of Risk Consulting

Image: Flowers at a memorial in front of Dreamworld, November 2016. Picture: Chris Hyde

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