On 10 June 2016, South Lakes Safari Zoo were fined £297,500 and ordered to pay costs of £150,000 as a result of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

On 24 May 2013, employee Sarah McClay died at South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria when she was attacked by a Sumatran tiger. The tiger gained access to the area where Miss McClay was working via two internal sliding gates and an open door. The door was fitted with a self-locking mechanism but a defective bolt resulted in the mechanism failing. 

The court stated that this incident “was as tragic as it was foreseeable”, with the zoo requiring to make serious improvements after a history of incidents prior to this one.

In July 2014, a second incident occurred where another employee broke their collar bone when falling from a ladder. South Lakes Safari Zoo pled guilty to safety breaches arising from both incidents. Zoo owner and sole director David Gill also faced individual charges but was acquitted. 

The statutory duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks posed to the health and safety of employees in connection with their work forms the cornerstone of effective health and safety management. It is of paramount importance in high risk environments and a range of HSE guidance is available to assist organisations to effectively manage risks associated with specific environments. In 2012, the HSE published specific guidance on Managing health and safety in zoos in 2012, tailored to this complex environment.