Whakaari/White Island tour operators ‘cannot waive safety obligations’

Tourists can only visit White Island as part of an organized group.


Tourists can only visit White Island as part of an organized group.

Any waivers signed by tour guides or tourists traveling to White Island would make no difference to the legal obligation of tour operators to provide a safe environment for their staff and customers.

At least five people have been confirmed dead after the Whakaari/White Island eruption on Monday.

Eight other people are still missing, presumed dead.

The explosion was described as “unfortunate but not completely unexpected” by Jessica Johnston, professor of geophysics at the University of East Anglia. The alert level for the area had increased before the eruption.

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Tourists visiting the island were often asked to sign a waiver indicating that they understood the risk involved.

Dave Doggart visited on Easter and said the waiver he signed made it clear it was an active and unpredictable volcano.

But WorkSafe confirmed that a waiver would not remove any of an employer’s legal obligations under occupational health and safety law.

Employers must ensure, as far as possible, the health and safety of their workers and other people who may be endangered by the work of the company.

It is not possible to avoid this requirement.

Newshub / Pool Pictures

PM Jacinda Ardern meets with White Island emergency personnel

Blair Scotland, partner of Dundas Street Employment Lawyers, said an employer who failed to meet all of their obligations could be prosecuted.

If an employer sent employees into a dangerous situation, understanding the risks they were exposed to, and a fatality occurred, WorkSafe could verify that all reasonable and practical steps were taken to address the risks, he said. declared.

“It will be interesting to see whether the tour operators or anyone else have complied with their legal obligations in this regard.”

Bill Hodge, honorary scholar at the University of Auckland Law School, said tourists could not take personal civil action against tour operators in New Zealand unless they seek damages punitive, claiming that the operators had been irresponsible.

Compensation could not be claimed for the injuries due to the ACC system.

But he said people who bought their tickets to Ovation of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean in the United States, could take action to sue the cruise line in courts there.

Worksafe states that where there is no charge for an operator to use land for adventure activities, but permission is given, the owner or manager of the land has a duty to warn of any unusual hazard that could cause danger.

When there is payment for the use of land, the owner or manager must take all practical measures to ensure the safety of the activity.