New adventure activity safety guidelines finalised

Four new sets of safety guidelines for commercial adventure tourism operators will help improve safety in the sector, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

The new guidelines cover vessels involved in swimming operations, vessels offering high-speed / thrill-ride experiences, parasailing operations and shark cage diving operations.

The guidelines are intended to help operators develop and implement their safety systems so that they can deliver their activities safely and reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities.

They were developed to address concerns following the rapid growth of adventure activities such as parasailing and shark cage diving, and in response to serious incidents in other sectors. These include serious injuries to a passenger swimming with dolphins who was struck by a vessel’s propeller, a passenger being run over by a dolphin-swimming vessel, and passengers suffering back injuries during high-speed boat rides. In another incident, an out-of-control parasail capsized the boat it was being towed behind, throwing five people into a lake alongside the vessel’s still-rotating propeller.

As well as providing practical guidance on how to manage hazards, the guidelines explain and give examples of how an operation can take into account the requirements of Maritime Rules and the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Operators will need to consider the guidelines when developing operator plans to meet the requirements of MNZ’s Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS).

MNZ’s General Manager Maritime Standards, Sharyn Forsyth, says the guidelines have been through a robust and thorough development process, involving intensive input from operators and associated professionals. She says this will bring benefits for both operators and adventure activity participants.

“Having been directly involved in developing the guidelines, operators are already aware of their safety expectations and requirements,” says Sharyn. “This will make it easier for them to meet the requirements, as well as improving safety outcomes.”

Sharyn says the guidelines are voluntary and, while they describe best practice, they are not the law. She says operators will also need to check that they are operating according to the latest Maritime Rules and other legislation: “These guidelines set out what MNZ considers to be acceptable safety standards, but they don’t remove operators’ responsibility to meet their full legal obligations and ensure their operation is managed safely.”

The guidelines are aligned with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority, Department of Conservation and WorkSafe, including the Health and Safety in Employment (Adventure Activities) Regulations (2011) enforced from 1 November 2014. (Note that the guidelines for shark cage diving cover vessel safety, and a Department of Conservation code of practice addresses conservation aspects of the activity.)