The Daily Mail Australia has revealed that Barack and Michelle Obama’s Harbor Bridge climb is now under investigation for violating numerous safety rules.
The Obamas were granted special VIP access to make the famous bridge climb without the usual suit and harness typically required by clients paying up to $408 each for one of the world’s most unique experiences.
The former president and first lady was photographed on Wednesday casually climbing a perilous walkway high above the busy rush hour traffic below.
While the couple has been given official permission to skip the bodysuit and clip-on seatbelts, Mrs. Obama was also seen with a jacket wrapped around her midriff, which raised serious safety concerns.
Other members of their entourage would carry their iPhones on the climb, which could easily fall at the risk of them falling into traffic below, shackled by holding on to the railing with only one hand.
The safety rules for climbing are notoriously strict and inflexible, and Bridge Climb enforces them without exception.
The New South Wales government has launched an internal investigation after former first lady Michelle Obama was allowed to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge with a jacket tied around her waist while an aide held her phone in her hand.
American TV star Oprah Winfrey was told to pack her seatbelt before she was allowed to enter the Harbor Bridge when she visited in 2010.
“The idea of the phone dropping from above onto the windshield of the car below is a no-brainer,” said health and safety expert Ben Chinua, Director of Benchmark OHS, based in Sydney.
Occupational Health and Safety Director Ben Chinwah raised concerns about the safety practices in place for climbing the President’s Bridge
If the regulator, SafeWork NSW, had been looking into this, they might have contacted the operator. We deal with these types of incidents all the time as there are issues of potential negligence.
“They have to manage the risks – and why should the ex-president of the United States get special treatment in our country?”
Transport for New South Wales organized the bridge climb after Obama requested it during their flying visit to Sydney this week on the president’s speaking tour of Australia.
A spokesperson insisted that the visit “followed the standard safety protocols in place for a VIP visit, and is carried out regularly”.
But a TfNSW source admitted that officials are now investigating how Mrs. Obama made the climb without anyone noticing her jumpsuit or taking action.
It is understood that VIPs and celebrities can be allowed to climb the bridge without using a seat belt as part of the standard protocols set by the state government.
Former NSW Prime Minister Dominique Perot was recently photographed in a suit on the bridge walkway without a harness, and Danish-Australian Crown Princess Mary has also been known to do the unrestrained climb.
An aide also appears to be holding an iPhone in her hand (in the back) behind Michelle Obama, while the former president and members of his entourage do not appear to maintain the recommended three points of contact with the walker at all times.
The photos contrast starkly with other celebrity outings including Team Sunrise Samantha Armytage, Natalie Barr and Mark Beretta’s 2014 BridgeClimb outfit.
The former New South Wales premier was pictured on a bridge walkway in his suit without any seatbelt in a publicity photo for the state government.
The state government applies different rules to those of the independent Bridge Climb Sydney company, which has exclusive commercial use of the ride.
“They get people to get up there and attempt suicide, and that’s one of the main reasons they have seat belts,” Mr. Chinwah revealed.
But there are a few other different aspects where people have to be stormed for their own safety, such as slips, trips, and falls.
The weather on Wednesday was choppy, with sunny to showers so the roofs could have been wet and slippery without anyone realizing.
“What if someone had a heart attack in there? The correct control measure to prevent falls is to use those restraining tools.
“The operator has identified these risks and that is why precautions are being taken to the public — why should the Obama family give special consideration?”
He said one of the security personnel appeared to be carrying a bag while his assistant, who was carrying an iPhone, added to the seriousness of it.
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, soared above traffic on the busy Sydney Harbor Bridge without any anchors and carrying items that could have fallen onto cars below.
Prince Harry dodged the suit but he also got hooked to a seat belt security barrier when he scaled the bridge in 2018 with former prime minister Scott Morrison behind him.
Visitors taking the thrilling ride with the commercial Bridge Climb company must wear jumpsuits and a safety belt attached to the rail, even celebrities like sprinting superstar Usain Bolt, pictured here in 2010
In addition, he said that former President Obama did not seem to hold the railing while going up and down the bridge.
He added: ‘He raised his hand as if he was waving.
He clearly does not have three points of contact as he should do, nor do people with objects in their hands.
When you have a senior person like that, I think they’ll do a risk assessment in the whole process.
You would think they had extra precautions in place, especially for ex-presidents.
Audric Oliver, who works as a leader on BridgeClimb, told Daily Mail Australia that although it is the only private company that operates the climb, the government sometimes receives special guests.
He added, “BridgeClimb wouldn’t do it without the harness and all that.”
A TfNSW spokesperson confirmed that they were reviewing their safety procedures after climbing the President’s Bridge.
A spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia: “As part of our security protocols with all VIP visits, a routine review process is undertaken.”