In brief

2 min read

The Department of Defence has been fined $1 million, over a fatality that occurred during a training exercise.

According to a Comcare media release, this is the largest penalty ever imposed in the Commonwealth workplace health and safety jurisdiction.

Key takeaways

  • Employers should undertake risk assessments and brief employees on their outcome, even if the risks appear obvious. Employees should receive training and be provided with clear instructions in relation to safety procedures and potential hazards.
  • Employers should also ensure that incidents are properly investigated and key organisational learnings identified. To minimise the risk of similar incidents occurring, these learnings should be incorporated into relevant policies, training manuals and risk management procedures.
  • Employers should ensure that employees are complying with, and implementing, safety policies and procedures on a day-to-day basis.


In May 2017, a soldier was fatally injured while participating in a military training exercise.

According to Comcare, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions commenced proceedings against the Department of Defence, alleging that it had failed to comply with a health and safety duty, and exposed a person to risk of death, serious injury or illness. The maximum penalty associated with this offence is $1.5 million for a body corporate. The Department pleaded guilty to the charge.

The penalty

Factors to be taken into account in determining the order and magnitude of a workplace health and safety penalty usually include:

  • the foreseeability of the risk (including whether any similar incidents have occurred previously);
  • the seriousness of the harm that may arise from the risk;
  • the measures available to avoid the risk;
  • the steps taken before the incident to comply with workplace health and safety requirements; and
  • the steps taken following the incident to improve systems and rectify the risks identified.