A high school has avoided a WorkSafe prosecution after a student drowned while on a trip to Waihī.
WorkSafe instead accepted Melville High School Board of Trustees' enforceable undertaking application, which has involved a series of changes being made at the school and more than $100,000 paid to the family of Jaden Chhayrann.
The 17-year-old got caught in a rip while going for a swim on a geography trip with his Melville High School class at Waihī Beach on February 21, 2020.
Despite a teacher's efforts to rescue him, Jaden was swept out to sea.
His body was found nearly 30km north, near Whiritoa Beach, a couple of weeks later.
In the Hamilton District Court in August last year, WorkSafe laid a charge against the school of exposing a person to risk of death or serious harm under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
The school denied the charge and both defence and Crown prosecutors agreed to enter into an enforceable undertaking - an alternative to going through with a prosecution.
An undertaking was "an agreement between WorkSafe and a duty holder" under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 [HSWA].
That would see an accused party "support progressively higher standards of work health and safety" for the benefit of staff or the workplace, and community and "remedy the harm caused to any victims".
WorkSafe this month accepted the school's undertaking for myriad reasons, including its introduction of a new safety management plan for outdoor activities as well as providing professional development for its teachers and camp facilitator.
In total, the undertaking has, and will, cost the school $266,217.
That comprises $30,000 on making internal changes, $124,000 on activities to promote health and safety in the wider industry and sector, and $15,000 each to Drowning Prevention Auckland and Surf Lifesaving Northern Region.
The school has paid $111.087 to Jaden's family which covered funeral costs, a scholarship for his sister, and $70,000 for financial support.
In its report, it stated the school had kept in close contact with the family who was supportive of the enforceable undertaking; principal Clive Hamill had travelled to Gisborne to get the family's approval before applying for it.
In a special newsletter to parents, Hamill said the finalising of the WorkSafe investigation "reflects another milestone" with the incident.
He said the school never wants to see a student or staff member put at risk and they should come home each day.
"[School] recognises that it could have done more to ensure that at the time of the accident, its EOTC template risk assessment form and procedures had not been updated.
"Melville High School deeply regrets the tragic incident."
'Geography trip gone wrong'
Melville High School had taken its geography class on a field trip to a coastal environment for "several consecutive years" that was organised by its social sciences head of department.
While it had its outdoor education guidelines double-checked and ultimately signed off, the school accepted its procedures were not consistent with the 2016 Ministry of Education guidelines and they should have had better risk identification, minimisation and management in place.
The trip, on February 20 and 21, was split into two days. On the first day, activities were held at Bowentown, at the south end of Waihī beach, and at the northern end the next day.
After questions from teachers, Jaden assessed himself as a capable swimmer.
Seventeen students chose to swim on the second day, supervised by three teachers in clear, calm conditions.
The teachers identified a safe swimming zone which was identified using orange safety cones and two green poles. There were no lifeguards on duty.
Jaden was pulled out by waves further than most other students and then got caught in a rip with another student.
On the shore, the teacher in charge realised the students were in trouble and ran into the water.
He couldn't find Jaden.
Another teacher sent a student to get urgent help from the local lifesaving building, 111 was called and lifeguards began an extensive, but unsuccessful, search.
Jaden's body washed ashore on March 1, 28km north of Waihī Beach.