Anita Graf, 60, a former ski instructor at the skifield, died after skiing into an unpadded post of a wood and wire fence guarding a reservoir at the bottom of Sugar’s Run on September 21 that year.
WorkSafe alleged the company’s risk assessment of the fence was inadequate, and “safety catch net fencing” should have been installed along its length to protect skiers.
After a trial in the Queenstown District Court in April, the company was found guilty and convicted on a Health and Safety at Work Act charge of exposing Graf to a risk of death or serious injury by failing to adequately assess the risks posed by the fence.
The company was sentenced today at a hearing attended by members of Graf’s family, as well as NZSki chairman Sir John Davies and chief executive Paul Anderson.
Judge Geoff Rea said the company was “put on very strong notice” about the fence’s risks in a 2014 document prepared by a ski patroller, but failed to carry out a “proper, documented risk assessment”.
In the 2014 document, discovered on a computer by the company during WorkSafe’s investigation, the patroller identified 28 of the fence’s posts as being “very likely to be skied into at high speed”.
Only nine posts were padded at the time of Graf’s death.
Judge Rea said it was clear the company’s health and safety system “broke down” in this instance, with even its chief executive describing his reaction at learning of the document’s existence as a “WTF moment”.
“It took the death for a proper risk assessment to be made, and for the proper mitigation to be implemented,” the judge said.
He imposed a fine of $440,000 after taking account of NZSki’s co-operation with WorkSafe, and its installation of safety catch net fencing in front of the wooden fence - and at sites on its other two skifields - after the accident.
The company must pay emotional harm reparation of $130,000 to the victim’s family, and prosecution costs of $28,000.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.