A Victorian swim school has been convicted and fined $150,000 following a diving accident which left a 12-year-old girl quadriplegic.
During a swimming lesson, a worker had directed the girl to dive into a toddler pool that was only 1.37 metres deep. She hit her head at the bottom of the pool, causing her to break her neck and suffer severe spinal injuries.
She was flown to Melbourne Royal Children’s hospital where she spent nearly 200 days.
The girl, who is now 14, requires 24-hour care and will be wheelchair-bound for life.
This catastrophe could have been avoided if the employer had carried out a proper safety assessment.
De Kort Enterprises, which runs the Swim and Survival Academy in Ballarat, pleaded guilty to breaching Victoria’s Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 for failing to ensure the girl was not exposed to health and safety risks.
The injured girl was 23cm taller and 46kg heavier than the average for girls her age and the employer should have ensured that its students were not instructed to dive into water that wasn’t sufficiently deep.
The Royal Life Saving Society Victoria recommends that dives should take place in pools with a depth of 2 metres.
Ballarat Magistrates’ Court Judge Paul Lacava said that the girl’s life and that of her parents and brother had been “turned upside down by this tragedy”.
“The impact is immense, touching upon almost every aspect of their everyday life,” he said.
While the company’s directors were deeply remorseful for the incident and have now taken steps to ensure that a similar incident doesn’t happen again, Judge Lacava said a “significant” fine was needed for “a serious example of what is a serious offence”.
“The risks of diving into shallow water are regrettably well known,” he said.
“Grade 6 school children cannot be expected to fully understand that risk and so the academy had to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect them.”