Comcare Enforcement Action
Comcare has accepted a Court-enforceable undertaking (EU) from the Department of Defence (Defence) in relation to an alleged failure to observe its duties under federal workplace safety laws. The undertaking is a legally enforceable commitment by the Chief of Army which is an alternative to Comcare pursuing civil proceedings against Defence.
Enforceable undertakings commit employers to do more than minimum compliance with workplace safety legislation. They include activities that deliver a tangible benefit to the health and safety in an organisation or the community generally.
The EU follows an investigation by Comcare into a 14 March 2008 incident, where a GRes member on a night training course at Mt Arapiles in Victoria fell from the end of a rope and sustained a fractured ankle. Comcare's investigation report concluded that Defence had breached section 16(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (the Act) because it failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of the GRes member on 14 March 2008.
The supervising staff for the course had failed to identify that the rope did not reach the ground and as there was no stop-knot in the end of the rope, the member fell. The incident highlighted a number of opportunities for improvement.
As part of the EU, the Chief of Army has undertaken to implement a range of measures including:
• Develop a single comprehensive policy for all aspects of military roping training, incorporating the best practice military roping procedures/techniques from existing Army Training Instructions.
• Develop and release a single doctrine publication for non-military roping incorporating the best practice non-military roping procedures/techniques from the existing Army Training Instruction, which is then to be cancelled.
• Develop and release a single doctrine publication for military roping and then cancel the existing military roping document/procedure.
• Separate the current training management package for military ropers into a package for ropers and another for their supervisors.
• Create the new office of ‘Training Authority for Military Roping' and appoint the Commandant of the Special Forces Training Centre to that position.
• Fund an independent expert agency to review the technical requirements in the single doctrine publication for military roping.
• Provide Comcare with a copy of the independent expert agency Review Report and a Corrective Action Plan (if required) to outline the implementation of any necessary changes to documents or procedures as a result of Review Report.
• Engage ArmySAFE Advisory Service to complete an audit of the revised policies and procedures related to military roping to ensure that the additional safety measures identified are being applied.
Through the above actions, Army intends to improve the current system by retaining those aspects that represent best-practice while strengthening others. The final outcome will be a simplified system that has clearly defined policy, procedures and roles.
A copy of the undertaking can be viewed at the ComCare Website.