“Tragic Death of Queenstown Skier Anita Graf: NZSki Found Guilty of Safety Failures”

By | August 17, 2023

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NZSki, the owner of Coronet Peak skifield, has been found guilty of health and safety failures in relation to the death of skier Anita Graf. Graf died after skiing into an unpadded wooden post of a fence guarding a reservoir. The judge accepted that NZSki failed to adequately assess the risks associated with the fence. The company faces a maximum penalty of $1.5 million and a sentencing hearing is expected to take place next month. NZSki has accepted its duty to perform adequate risk assessments but stated that it did not foresee such an accident happening. Guy Williams reported

Coronet Peak skifield owner NZSki has been found guilty of breaching health and safety regulations in relation to the tragic death of Anita Graf, a Queenstown skier, in September 2019. Graf lost her life after colliding with an unprotected wooden post that formed part of a fence guarding a reservoir at the bottom of Sugar’s Run. The cause of her death was determined to be blunt force and cardiac trauma.

Judge Geoff Rea, in his ruling, agreed with WorkSafe’s argument that NZSki had failed to adequately assess the risks associated with the fence, thereby exposing Graf to a risk of serious injury or death. The company, which also owns The Remarkables and Mt Hutt ski areas, faces a maximum penalty of $1.5 million. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for next month.

During the trial, WorkSafe contended that NZSki’s risk assessment of the fence was insufficient, and that safety catch net fencing should have been installed along its entire length at the base of the run. Witnesses testified that Graf appeared to be in control and did not make any evasive maneuvers before colliding with the post.

Judge Rea highlighted the significance of a “padding hazard register” document discovered during WorkSafe’s investigation. The document, authored by a ski patrol member in 2014, recommended padding for 28 fence posts. This indicated that the company had been made aware of safety concerns regarding the fence, as several serious injuries and near misses had already occurred.

However, the judge did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the company should have implemented safety catch-net fencing along the entire length of the run at the time of the accident.

NZSki’s CEO, Paul Anderson, acknowledged the company’s responsibility to conduct thorough risk assessments and identify all hazards and risks at the ski area. Prior to Graf’s accident, the company had considered a collision with the fence at that specific location to be of low probability. Following the tragedy, NZSki promptly installed a safety catch-net fence and conducted a comprehensive review of its hazard management system across all its ski areas.

Anderson expressed remorse for the loss suffered by Graf’s family and stated that the changes made by the company cannot diminish the impact of their loss. The family declined to comment on the court’s decision..