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WHS charge after soldiers attacked by crocodile

11 August 2023

The Department of Defence has been charged with breaching federal work health and safety laws after two soldiers were attacked by a crocodile in far north Queensland.

Following an investigation by regulator Comcare, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed a single charge alleging Defence failed in its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The incident happened on 6 August 2021 at the Cape York Peninsula community of Portland Road, around 750km north of Cairns, while the soldiers were transporting a landing craft from Darwin to Townsville for maintenance.

The Darwin-based Army members, a private and a corporal, were given permission to go fishing in a Zodiac at Portland Road.

After anchoring the boat, the men went swimming and were almost immediately attacked by a 2.5 metre saltwater crocodile.

The crocodile dragged one of the soldiers underwater and mauled him while his colleague fought off the animal, allowing the men to escape to the Zodiac.

Both soldiers suffered significant injuries including bite and claw wounds and were treated at Cairns Hospital.

It is alleged Defence failed to train workers and to provide and maintain a safe system of work, including implementing policies:

  • Prohibiting workers from entering crocodile inhabited waters unless there was an operational or safety reason to do so;
  • For conducting risk assessments; and
  • For providing a detailed safety briefing about the risk of crocodile attack when entering the water.

The WHS Act charge against Defence is a Category 2 offence carrying a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

The matter is listed for mention in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 15 September 2023.

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Page last reviewed: 11 August 2023

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Date printed 25 Apr 2024