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Australian Defence charged over death of member

AUSTRALIA

The Australian Department of Defence has been charged with breaching Commonwealth work health and safety laws for allegedly failing to manage psychological risks in relation to the death of a worker.

Following a Comcare investigation, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed three charges in the NSW Local Court at Maitland alleging Defence failed in its primary duty under the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

The worker, a Royal Australian Air Force technician at Williamtown (pictured) near Newcastle, took his own life while on duty at the base on 28 July 2020.

It is alleged Defence breached its health and safety duty under section 19(1) of the WHS Act by failing to provide, so far as reasonably practicable:

  • Safe systems of work
  • Necessary training to workers
  • Information necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety

All charges relate to alleged failures in managing risks to psychological health and safety during the administration of Defence workplace policies and procedures.

The three criminal charges consist of:

  • One Category 2 offence, carrying a maximum penalty of $1.5 million
  • Two Category 3 offences, each carrying a maximum penalty of $500,000

The matter is listed for mention in the Maitland Local Court on 29 September 2022.

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