NZ Defence Force sentenced after training exercise incident

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NZDF has been sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and fined $354,750 and with an order for reparation totalling $100,000.

In August 2020 a mock operation was carried out at the Linton Urban Training Facility as part of an annual training exercise. During an exercise an incendiary device ignited, and three Service Persons were harmed.

In the NZDF Risk Management Plan for the exercise it stated that controls would be in place to ensure the health and safety of those involved, including full flame-retardant PPE gear including overalls and a fire-resistant hood.

A WorkSafe investigation found that the appropriate PPE had not been provided to the Service Persons on the night of the incident. The provision of sufficient flame retardant PPE should have been ensured by NZDF, as specifically outlined in the Risk Management Plan.

WorkSafe found that a limited safety briefing had occurred, and insufficient instructions were given prior to the training exercises commencement, with some new participants on the second night not receiving any at all. 

WorkSafe also found that the petrol and diesel used to make the incendiary devices was not appropriately stored and participants in the mock exercise had access to and used the fuel during the mock exercise.

“Lack of proper training and instruction is always a recipe for disaster, no matter what the situation,” says Hayden Mander, WorkSafe National Investigations Manager.

“Appropriate safety precautions must be taken in high-risk settings such as this, including the bare minimum of providing the right equipment to keep people safe.

“Three Service Persons will have to live with physical and mental injuries for the rest of their lives. It was reasonably practicable for NZDF to keep these people safe, but a lack of oversight means their lives will be altered forever.”

Notes:

  • The New Zealand Defence Force was sentenced at the Palmerston North District Court on Tuesday 29 March 2022. 
  • A fine of $354,750 was imposed. 
  • Reparation totalling $100,000 was ordered.
  • The New Zealand Defence Force was sentenced under Sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c), of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).
  • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including the three victims, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely while undertaking training as part of Exercise Venom 2020’s battle handling exercises (BHE) at the Urban Training Facility, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury.
  • Carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000. 
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