A Rotorua outdoor adventure company has been fined and ordered to pay reparation to a woman who fell while taking part in its high ropes course.
WorkSafe's Chief Inspector Keith Stewart said the victim was at Tui Ridge Park, operated by Seventh-day Adventist Church Property Trustee (NZ) Ltd, in November last year when she fell 3m while being belayed to the ground by colleagues, suffering serious injuries including spinal fractures and spinal cord injury.
The activity involved crossing a high beam while attached to a harness, rope and belay system. Once she had crossed the 10m high beam the belay system was used to lower her to the ground.
Two of her colleagues operated the belay, on instruction from park staff. She had safely descended approximately 7m when the first belayer lost control and appears to have pulled the wrong lever -- causing the victim to fall the final 3m rapidly to the ground. The second belayer was concentrating on trying to keep the first belayer on the ground and may have dropped the rope.
A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found that the ropes and structure were in good working order but the level of instructor qualification and supervision was not in line with industry good practice or the company's own Code of Practice.
Seventh-day Adventist Church Property Trustee (NZ) was found guilty on one charge of failing to take all practicable steps to keep a paying customer safe at a place of work, under sections 16(2)(b)(i) and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. It was sentenced yesterday in the Rotorua District Court.
Mr Stewart said if the Tui Park workers had been better qualified and had supervised the activity more closely the accident might have been avoided.
"This incident affected others involved too -- including the victim's colleagues who were operating the belay -- and reinforces the need to ensure all safety systems are operating well," he said.
Seventh-day Adventist Church Property Trustee (NZ) Ltd was fined $46,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $40,000 to the victim.