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WHS Act penalty after army cadet injured (Media release)

10 March 2020

The Department of Defence has been convicted and fined $300,000 after a Sydney high school student was seriously injured during an army cadet camp.

Following an investigation by Comcare, Defence pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing in its duties under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and was sentenced in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court yesterday. The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The charge is a Category 2 offence under section 32 of the WHS Act – exposing a person to risk of death or serious injury.

The Newington College student, then aged 14, disappeared during an exercise on the school’s annual cadet camp at Colo, northwest of Sydney, on 19 September 2016. He was later found unconscious at the bottom of an escarpment, suffering multiple fractures, and was airlifted to hospital.

Defence admitted it failed to provide a safe system of work and adequate supervision to ensure the safety of cadets involved in the exercise.

The Department of Defence owed duties to the students as ‘workers’ under the WHS Act, through the Australian Army Cadets (AAC) program. When a member of a cadet unit is engaged in AAC activities, they are carrying out work for a business or undertaking conducted by the Commonwealth.

Comcare’s investigation identified a failure to conduct a risk assessment to identify hazards and risk control measures for the activity and ensure appropriate supervision throughout the exercise. These are important requirements to ensure health and safety risks are minimised or eliminated.

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Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019

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