Work, health and safety

Through leadership and individual commitment, Defence aims to ensure no person will suffer a serious preventable work related injury or illness. The protection of our people is paramount. At times we require our people to operate in environments of extreme risk and hazard due to the nature of military operations. However, at all times we will manage risk to ensure that when risks are taken they are understood, accounted for, and integrated into our plans and the way we operate.

The responsibility for work health and safety, both physical and mental, belongs to everyone. We will strive to make measurable improvement in our work health and safety performance through the implementation of the Defence Work Health and Safety Strategy.

WHS Incident Reporting

Sentinel is the preferred method for notification and reporting of all WHS Incidents in Defence, for all personnel with access to the Defence Restricted Network (DRN).

The AE527 - Sentinel Event Report - Non Defence Restricted Network (DRN) users, is the notification and reporting form for all WHS incidents in Defence.

This report form must be completed even if a DISCON signal (FATALCAS and NOTICAS) has been raised. The use of this form is only for use by Defence employees (ADF, Civilian and Reservists) as well as ADF Cadets, contractors and visitors who do not have access to the Defence Restricted Network (DRN). It is to be completed and sent to a Defence contact who can enter the Incident into Sentinel on your behalf.

AE527 - Sentinel Event Report - Non Defence Restricted Network (DRN) Users (PDF, 176.88 KB)

This information is collected in accordance with legislative requirements to notify Comcare and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency of certain WHS incidents and to maintain a record of WHS incident management in Defence. It may be used to trigger an investigation by the relevant Defence Group or Service. This form is not a claim for compensation. However, WHS incident data is available to support compensation or rehabilitation claims.

Information on this form is collected under the authority of the Defence Act 1903, Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPANS Act). The information on this form is protected according to privacy principles in the Privacy Act 1998.

Event definition

A WHS incident is any accident (including near miss) incident or event that is caused in the course of Defence work, which involves:

  • Work illnesses.
  • Uncontrolled fire and explosions.
  • Disabling injuries.
  • Serious equipment plant or property damage.
  • Dangerous incidents which could have, but did not injure any person.
  • Exposures to hazardous substances or circumstances.
  • Minor injuries.
  • Any other serious incident that could put employees or plant at risk.

This includes WHS incidents for all Defence workers  including ADF, APS, Cadets, and third parties (contractors or the general public). Defence Contractors may have dual reporting requirements both to the Commonwealth and to the State or Territory WHS Authority.

Severity type definitions

Severity Definition
Fatality - (Notifiable to Comcare and reportable to Defence) WHS ACT - Section 35-36 An incident resulting in a work-related death of any person including a member of the public, a contractor or a worker, whether or not it occurred at a workplace, will be notifiable if it arises out of the conduct of the employer's undertaking. It is also notifiable if it arises out of work performed by an employee in connection with their employer's undertaking.

Serious Injury or Illness - (Notifiable to Comcare and reportable to Defence)

WHS ACT - Section 35-36

Section 36 of the WHS Act sets out that a serious injury or illness of a person is an injury or illness requiring the person to have:

  • Immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital (includes admission into a hospital as an in-patient for any duration, even if the stay is not overnight or longer, but does not include out-patient treatment provided by the emergency section of a hospital i.e. not requiring admission as an in-patient);
  • Immediate treatment for
    • The amputation of any part of  the body such as a limb (arm or leg), body part such as hand, foot or the tip of a finger, toe, nose or ear.
    • A serious head injury such as fractured skull, loss of consciousness, blood clot or bleeding in the brain, and any head injuries resulting in temporary or permanent amnesia immediate treatment for a serious eye injury that results in or is likely to result in the loss of the eye or total or partial loss of vision.
    • A serious burn requiring intensive care or critical care which could require compression garment or a skin graft.
    • The separation of skin from an underlying tissue (such as degloving or scalping)where tendon, bone or muscles are exposed.
    • immediate treatment for a spinal injury to the cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacral vertebrae including the disc and spinal cord.
    • immediate treatment for the loss of a bodily function such as loss of consciousness, loss of movement of a limb or loss of the sense of smell, taste, sight or hearing, or loss of function of an internal organ.
    • immediate treatment for serious lacerations such as deep or extensive cuts that cause muscle, tendon, nerve or blood vessel damage or permanent impairment,    deep puncture wounds, tears to the flesh or tissues that may include stitching to prevent loss of blood and/or other treatment to prevent loss of bodily function and/or infection.
    • Medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance where treatment is provided by a doctor including exposure to chemicals, airborne contaminants and exposure to human and/or animal blood or body substances.
  • The following prescribed illnesses:
    • Any infection to which the carrying out of work is a significant contributing factor, including any infection that is  reliably attributable to carrying out work:
      • That involves providing treatment or care of a person
      • That involves contact with human blood or body substances
      • That involves handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products
      •  Certain occupational zoonoses contracted in the course of work involving the handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products.

In the case of a serious injury or illness it does not matter whether a person actually received treatment, just that the injury or illness could reasonably be considered to warrant such treatment.

The Work Health and Safety Regulations (the Regulations) may include or exclude other injuries or illnesses as 'serious injuries or illnesses' for the purposes of section 36 of the WHS Act.

Dangerous Incident - (Notifiable to Comcare and reportable to Defence)

WHS ACT - Section 35-36

Section 37 of the WHS Act sets out that a dangerous incident is an incident in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to:

  • An uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance.
  • An uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire.
  • An uncontrolled escape of gas or steam.
  • An uncontrolled escape of a pressurised substance.
  • Electric shock, as defined in Code of Practice, Work Health and Safety (Managing electrical risks in the workplace).
  • The fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or thing (not including a person).
  • The collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that is required to be authorised for use in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
  • The collapse or partial collapse of a structure (note that this could include Telstra pits).
  • The collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation.
  • The inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel.
  • The interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel.

The Regulations may include or exclude other incidents as being ‘dangerous incidents’ for the purposes of section 37 of the WHS Act, however the Regulations are currently silent on this.

For most hazards such as plant, or a structure collapsing, a person will need to be in the immediate vicinity to be exposed to a serious risk to their health and safety.

However, some hazards such as an uncontrolled leak of a hazardous gas or a fire can travel towards a person and expose them to a serious risk to health and safety away from the original source.

A dangerous incident includes both immediate serious risks to health or safety, and also a risk from an immediate exposure to a substance which is likely to create a serious risk to health or safety in the future, for example asbestos or chemicals.

Exposure - (Reportable to Defence) Where an exposure and or potential exposure to a substance/material including workplace hazards or exposure to a traumatic event has occurred that does not result in any immediate effects, and does not fall within the dangerous incidents definitions for immediate or imminent exposure.
Minor Injury - (Reportable to Defence) Any minor injury that did not result in a fatality, serious injury or illness or a dangerous incident, that was a direct result of either a Defence undertaking and or occurred in a Defence controlled workplace.
Near Miss - (Reportable to Defence) An incident where no person is injured, but could have been injured, resulting in serious injury or death but where the risk to a person's health that was not immediate or imminent and the incident does not fall within the definitions of a dangerous incident.

Defence Policy

Defence personnel are required to submit Defence WHS incidents in accordance with Defence policy. All work health and safety (WHS) incidents related to employment in Defence, or as a result of a Defence undertaking, are to be reported using Sentinel. This includes WHS incidents for all Defence employees, cadets and third parties (contractors and the general public).


The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Branch collects data on WHS incidents under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Australian Radiation and Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPANSA). Some incidents require additional notification to the regulators, Comcare and ARPANSA.

Comcare Notifiable Incidents

Under Part 3 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 Defence has a duty to notify the regulator of defined notifiable incidents that have arisen out of Defence directed/controlled activities immediately after becoming aware that the incident has occurred.

Notification in the first instance must be by phone - 1300 366 979. Seek advice from the Comcare contact regarding site preservation and submission of written notification of the incident.

If the incident has been identified as a notifiable to Comcare the incident will be automatically submitted once the supervisor has completed the required supporting information in the Sentinel Event Module.

WHS Report Completion

The Supervisor of the person involved, or reporting the incident, is responsible for ensuring that all relevant sections of the WHS incident report are completed within the prescribed timeframes.

The role of Supervisor is assigned to the person who was supervising the Casualty/Casualties as at the time of the incident and/or was in charge of the Defence work area at the time of the incident.

Information to include on the Sentinel Event (Incident) Report

Complete form ensuring all mandatory fields are valid and form is submitted electronically to the Defence contact notified on the form in order to have it uploaded and entered into Sentinel. Provide as much information as possible, clearly describing what happened.

General public or contractors

Defence employees (ADF and APS) are also to complete the AD 088 - Comcover Notification Record, where an incident involves a member of the general public or a contractor.

For further information please refer to the Defence Insurance Office website or phone 1800 990 900. The AD 088 can be found on the Web Forms system.

Different reporting procedures apply to Defence internal reporting and Commonwealth regulators; Comcare, and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Deployment and Radiation
Condition Deployment and the WHS Incident type is Notify
If you are being paid a deployment allowance All WHS Incidents Defence
If you are not being paid a deployment allowance radiation exposure Defence, Comcare and ARPANSA
If you are not being paid a deployment allowance not related to radiation exposure Defence and Comcare

The Defence WHS Incident Reporting Timeframes outline the mandatory reporting timeframes applicable to work health and safety incidents. Timeframes for notifying and notifying Comcare are mandated by legislation. The table below shows the reporting procedure.

WHS Incident Severity Type:

  • Fatality
  • Serious Injury or Illness
  • Dangerous Incident
WHS Incident Reporting Timeframes
Initial Report Report in Sentinel Written Notification Closed in Sentinel Incidents Involving Radiation

Phone Comcare immediately
Note: Notification to Comcare is required immediately after becoming aware that a notifiable incident arising from the business or undertaking has occurred.

Notification in the first instance should be by phone:
1300 366 979

From outside Australia phone:
+61 2 6276 0333 (international call charges apply)

Within 24 hours

Within 48 hours of initial phone call to Comcare.

Note: Sentinel will automatically send the written notification to Comcare when the Workplace Supervisor completes all the required actions in Sentinel.

Within 28 days

Reporting to ARPANSA is to be, in the first instance, within 24 hours of the accident.

Business Hours:
02 9541 8329

24 hour contact:
03 9432 5384


WHS Incident Severity Type:

  • Minor Injury
  • Exposure
  • Near Miss
WHS Incident Reporting Timeframes
WHS Incident Severity Type Initial Report Report in Sentinel Written Notification Closed in Sentinel
Minor Injury, Exposure or Near Miss Not required for Comcare Within 3 days Not required for Comcare Within 28 days

The distribution procedures for groups and services are different across Defence. While specific group and service distribution should be sought, it is recommended that a copy of the WHS Incident Report be placed:

  • Employee File
  • Supervisor
  • Unit Safety Coordinator
  • Regional WHS Coordinators
  • Command Safety Officer
  • Group Safety Coordinator
Work Health and Safety  
Sentinel Business Support Team 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 362)
Business hours hotline 1300 366 979
Fax 1300 305 916
Switchboard (24/7) (03) 9433 2211
Fax (all states) (02) 9541 8348