Any profession comes with some kind of workplace health and safety risk.

Some of these risks are limited to the health and safety of employees in the workplace, but other professions can have a huge impact on the wider public. Unfortunately, we have received a huge wake-up call from the recent tragedy at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

What we know so far

While there is still so much to be investigated at the theme park, we do know that four adults and two children boarded the Thunder River Rapids ride just before 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday, October 25, 2016. The ride itself is 30 years old and widely regarded and marketed as a family-friendly thrill ride, accessible by children as young as two years old. Up until this point, it was business as usual for the ride, but an empty raft became stuck, causing the victims’ raft to push up against it, flipping back on itself and killing the four adults on board while the two children miraculously survived.

What are the possible causes?

Naturally, there are a broad range of contributors to be examined:

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Maintenance schedules
  • Competency

However, regardless of whether this incident was a result of human error or a freak accident, as many are labelling it, this tragedy has provided an opportunity for lessons to be learned.

Are you prepared?

Earlier this year, the ABC reported a story about one of Dreamworld’s technicians and the extensive checks he goes through each day to prepare the rides for the public to enjoy.

“Every ride has a checklist of between 75 and 200 checks that we have to complete in order to start it up,” said Jay Willis, the ride technician.

Even with all those checks and tests, a tragedy still happened and another tragedy could strike at any time, to anyone. Are there health and safety issues that you’ve been overlooking for a while now? Can you be sure that you have done absolutely everything in your power to make sure your employees and the wider public are safe from any obvious risks?

Of course, in the case of freak accidents, there might not be any way to prevent a potentially critical incident. In the days after the Dreamworld accident, the ABC gained access to Queensland Work Health and Safety documents outlining risks that had been identified and experienced by members of the public. It appears the October tragedy is the latest in a series of emergency incidents in recent years. While none of the previous incidents are related to the Thunder River Rapids ride, they do begin to cast doubt upon Dreamworld’s safety record.

If a freak accident were to occur in your workplace, would you have the documents to back up your impeccable record and prove that it really was a freak accident? Or would you find yourself in Dreamworld’s position, offering up redacted versions of documents and a history of emergency incidents?

The Dreamworld tragedy is an unwelcome and devastating reminder to reflect on the health and safety culture within your workplace. Create a culture where safety is not just a procedure to be completed, but a core value within your team. Keeping your workplace safe will not only benefit you now, but will prove your integrity if anything unfortunate occurs later down the track.