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Risk Assessment Failure Leads to Skiing Fatality at Coronet Peak

An experienced skier lost her life due to poor risk assessment practices by NZSki at Coronet Peak. Anita Graf-Russell, a 60-year-old accomplished skier, collided with a wooden fence post at the bottom of Sugar’s Run in September 2019, resulting in blunt force trauma that proved fatal. This incident highlights the importance of comprehensive risk assessment in ensuring the safety of employees and customers.

The Importance of Risk Assessment

WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident revealed a 2014 document from a ski patrol staffer that highlighted the potential hazards of fence posts, metal deer fencing, and strainers in the area. The document described multiple serious harm injuries and near misses, assigning a risk score of 10 out of 10. Despite being aware of these safety concerns, NZSki failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment for the fence since 2014.

Responsibility of Operators

Judge Geoff Rea found NZSki guilty of breaching its health and safety obligations. He stated that the company created a risk by installing a fence around a water reservoir without adequately controlling the subsequent risk. This case serves as a reminder that operators in leisure industries, like skiing, have a duty of care not only to their employees but also to paying customers. Proper risk assessment processes are essential, even in seasonal industries.

Safety Measures for Workplaces

Implementing effective safety measures in the workplace can help prevent accidents and ensure the well-being of everyone involved. Here are some practical tips:

    • Conduct a thorough risk assessment: Identify potential hazards and assess their potential impact on employees and customers. Regularly review and update the risk assessment to account for any changes in the environment.
    • Address identified risks: Take appropriate measures to control and mitigate the identified risks. This may involve implementing physical barriers, providing protective equipment, or establishing clear safety protocols.
    • Train employees: Ensure that all employees receive proper training on workplace safety procedures. This includes familiarizing them with potential hazards, teaching them how to use safety equipment, and promoting a culture of safety awareness.
    • Regular inspections and maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain all equipment, infrastructure, and facilities to ensure they are in proper working condition and pose no safety risks.
    • Encourage reporting of safety concerns: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any safety concerns or near-miss incidents. Promptly address and investigate these reports to prevent future accidents.

By prioritizing safety and implementing these measures, businesses and organizations can fulfill their duty of care and create a safe environment for their employees and customers.

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