Charges against CSIRO withdrawn as agency enters enforceable undertaking

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday March 12, 2021

CSIRO's enforceable undertaking includes safety improvements to be completed over the next 18 months
CSIRO’s enforceable undertaking includes safety improvements to be completed over the next 18 months. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The CSIRO will spend $1.5 million on workplace health and safety measures as part of an enforceable undertaking with Comcare, the federal regulator revealed on Thursday.

The undertaking relates to an explosion that occurred during an experiment at the CSIRO’s Clayton laboratory in June 2017. Debris was propelled more than 20 metres into a garden area, causing minor injuries to the researcher and extensive damage to the building.

An investigation into the incident led to the CSIRO facing four criminal charges. Comcare had alleged the agency breached the Work Health and Safety Act and highlighted “failures relating to work environment, systems of work, plant and the provision of information and training”.

The CSIRO has entered into an enforceable undertaking with Comcare — which includes safety improvements to be completed over the next 18 months — and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has formally withdrawn the charges in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

A virtual and augmented reality training package to identify and control work health and safety risks in laboratories, upgrades to existing project management systems, and technical guidance to support hazard identification in high-risk environments for new projects and equipment will be included in the commitment.

Comcare’s head of regulatory operations Justin Napier said the enforceable undertaking would strengthen safety systems and outcomes.

“This is a strong commitment that will deliver significant improvements at high-risk CSIRO operations across Australia,” he said in a statement.

“There are also benefits for the broader research community in the areas of risk assessment training, project risk management and technical infrastructure guidance.”


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