Queensland’s recreational diving and snorkelling code of practice will be updated by July, following a recent reef safety roundtable in Cairns which was convened following a number of incidents on the reef.
Working groups will be established in March to oversee a series of improvements to the snorkelling and diving parts of the industry code, said Queensland’s Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace.
The working groups will take a close look at snorkelling and diving safety with a view to updating the code by July, Minister Grace said.
“We know that Queensland’s existing snorkelling and diving laws are already the strongest in Australia, and possibly the world.
“But the recent tragic events we’ve seen on the reef show that the code needs to be updated – that was the clear consensus of the roundtable.”
Minister Grace said the working groups would include marine tourism operators, Surf Life Saving Queensland, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) experts and other stakeholders, and would consider:
medical declarations for at risk snorkelers prior to them entering the water;
automatic external defibrillators on reef tourist vessels;
ensuring the use of floatation devices for at risk snorkelers; and
requiring at risk snorkelers to wear a different coloured vest or snorkel for easy visual identification.
“These sensible and practicable measures aim to ensure all visitors return home to their loved ones safely after enjoying their time on the reef,” she said.
“Another key outcome from the roundtable is that family of the deceased will be notified of the cause of death within 24 hours, once the cause of death is known.
“Industry stakeholders including WHSQ and tourism operators will be notified of the cause of death within 48 hours, and 24-36 hours after this, the information will be publicly released.”
Minister Grace also said an expert panel would be established to assist the Coroner to analyse any snorkelling or diving deaths on the reef on a case-by-case basis.