River death leads to OHS prosecution

The prosecution of a New Zealand adventure company, Black Sheep Adventures, over the death of Englishwoman Emily Jordan has received more press in England than in Australia but the case should be watched by all OHS professionals.

One report provides a useful summary of the fatal incident

“Emily Jordan drowned while riverboarding on the Kawarau river in New Zealand’s south island in April last year [2008].

The 21-year-old former Alice Ottley School (now RGSAO) pupil was travelling with her boyfriend after graduating from Swansea University with a first class degree in law.

The riverboarding company Black Sheep Adventures Ltd and its director Brad McLeod have been charged with failing to ensure the actions or inaction of employees did not harm Miss Jordan.”

The same article is an illustration of the importance of regular communication with the family of the deceased by the Authorities, even if the parties are on opposite sides of the globe.

The family established The Emily Jordan Foundation and a eulogy about Emily is available which provides a clearer understanding of what was lost in this tragedy.

Black Sheep Adventures have also been charged under the Health and Safety Employment Act 1992, with failing “failure to take all practical steps to ensure the safety of employees and the prevention of possible hazards.”  The company and its director have pleaded not guilty.

The Birmingham Post is continuing to cover the case including the start of the trial due for next week.

Maritime New Zealand who are prosecuting the company instigated a review of the river boarding industry in late 2008.

Kevin Jones

4 thoughts on “River death leads to OHS prosecution”

  1. It will be interesting to see if comparisons drawn with the OLL case in the UK. In that instance 4 schoolchildren drowned during a sea kyaking exercise and teh managing director received a 3 year jail term for manslaughter – reduced to 2 years on appeal.

  2. This will be an interesting case (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article6798715.ece) which will hopefully be covered in Australia. There is no shortage of businesses like this in Australia and the same sort of outcome is possible, but since the company has pleaded not guilty let\’s see what the evidence reveals . In my experience the adventure tourism industry is pretty good in terms of safety but if you expand its meaning out to camps and amusements (ranging from bouncy castles at kids parties to show rides and fun parks etc), the potential for injury is considerable. What I hope doesn\’t come out of this is that OHS will become yet another reason for people to not do things, or for regulators to become the \’fun police\’. What is needed though is for the \’fun\’ industry as a whole to ensure the experience it offers has a happy ending because everything practicable has been done to ensure that\’s the case.

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