May 11, 2022

Let’s learn about safety management from the White Island tragedy  

volcano with man holding mobile phone

Two years since the world reeled in shock as a volcano exploded on White Island killing 21 people, the first company associated with the island has been fined, prompting many to look at what we’ve learned about safety management and what we need to learn to avoid a similar tragedy. 

The White Island explosion occurred on a small island in New Zealand in December 2019. There were 47 tourists on the island at the time, including a mix of Australians, Americans, Britons, Germans, New Zealanders, Chinese and Malays. Of those tourists, 21 people were killed and 26 were injured. 

More than two years later and Inflite Charters, a helicopter charter service, has become the first tourism business associated with the island to be fined.  

What’s interesting about the fine is that the company was not on operating on the island at the time but regularly engaged in tourism at White Island 

After pleading guilty to having inadequate safety management systems and safe operating procedures in place, the company was fined $227,500. 

The fine came with a stern message about safety management responsibilities. 

It’s a message that’s resonated across the tourism sector and generated food for thought for many industries to learn from. 


Safety management lessons to learn  

As plumes of ash and smoke rose out of the ocean that day, tourism operators and local rescuers scrambled to help the victims.  

The island lay 50 kilometres, across rough ocean, from official emergency services. 

The only emergency shelter was a metal container unit used to store emergency supplies, and reportedly inadequate to withstand an eruption on the island. 

While a full trial of the incident is yet to be held, safety management systems and safe operating procedures have been questioned, especially given the high-risk site. 

The initial fine has served as a clear message to all businesses that they are responsible for keeping people healthy and safe when under their care – and not just when the activity is happening.  

That means considering and assessing potential risks, implementing appropriate safety systems, monitoring hazards, managing visitor preparations and ensuring staff are trained and prepared for the worst situation – no matter how unlikely.  

What we’ve seen, from the events at White Island, is that the worst can occur. All businesses – not matter how big or small – need to have a grip on their risk, safety and compliance obligations. 

How is that possible, when there seems to be so much to consider?  


One solution 

While nothing can take the place of trained professionals, digital platforms can help guide and manage risk and hazard management. They can track risk and safety audits, professional assessments and training and induction processes. 

INX’s Sitepass by INX, for example, allows you to keep an eye on all of your workplace risk, safety and compliance needs at the click of a button. 

Sitepass by INX provides businesses with visibility over their risk management at a very practical level by offering: 

  • Automated onboarding – personalising the induction or welcome process for employees, volunteers, visitors and contractors, ensuring they are appropriately prepared and qualified to visit or work at each specific location or site. 
  • Visitor movement tracking and management – monitoring the movements of visitors and employees from location to location, including through an easy-to-use, live check in process. 
  • Contractor management – tracking the compliance of your people and those you contact with to ensure they are insured, qualified and understand the processes, risks and hazards to work at sites or across an entire operation.  
  • Training management – assigning online training for completion prior to site visits or commencing work, including any baseline assessments 

Technology like Sitepass by INX will help you manage risks in a proactive and methodical way.  

As a bonus, it provides tracking and proof that you’ve done the right thing and prepared your people, visitors and contractors in the right way – delivering introductions, inductions and training that could potentially save lives. 

Sound like something you need? Visit the page Sitepass by INX to learn more.