Parliamentary Committee recommends mine worker safety and health changes be passed
WHO SHOULD READ THIS
- Mining industry stakeholders (including officers of obligation holders, contractors, service providers, manufacturers, designers of plant, importers and suppliers of plant or substances).
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The Queensland Parliament’s Education, Employment and Small Business Committee has recommended that changes to mining safety and health legislation be passed.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
- Mining industry stakeholders need to understand and remain informed about the proposed changes so that, if the changes are made, steps to ensure ongoing compliance can be implemented.
Proposed changes to mining safety and health legislation are progressing, with the Education, Employment and Small Business Committee (Committee) tabling its report into the Mines Legislation (Resources Safety) Amendment Bill 2018 (Bill) on 8 May 2018.
The Committee’s report recommends that the Bill be passed with only two amendments.
The Queensland Government’s response is due within three months.
The Queensland Government reintroduced the Bill in March 2018, after the original version lapsed in November 2017 due to the Queensland State Election. The Bill proposes changes to the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld).
The Bill’s explanatory notes outline that the purposes of the changes include providing for:
- greater transparency and accountability
- improvements to safety and health management systems (SHMS), and
- stronger enforcement and compliance powers.
There are important changes in the Bill affecting, among other things, duties of officers, reporting requirements for mine worker diseases, reporting defects and hazards affecting plant and substances, incorporating contractor and service provider plans and increasing penalties and inspector powers.
The proposed changes are discussed in greater detail in our 28 September 2017 Insight article.
The Committee unanimously recommended the Bill be passed, but recommended two amendments.
The first was to include a definition of ‘contractor’. The Bill requires that contractors’ safety and health management information be considered as part of a single, integrated SHMS for the mine site. Stakeholders, particularly the Queensland Resources Council, were concerned that the Bill did not define ‘contractor’ which could create ambiguity and impact the effectiveness of the proposed amendments. The Committee noted these concerns and recommended that the Bill be amended to include a definition of ‘contractor’.
The second proposed amendment relates to the notification of reportable diseases. The Bill expands the ‘duty to notify’ to persons prescribed by regulation, such as a medical practitioner. The Committee considered stakeholder feedback that safety risks could be better addressed if these prescribed persons were also required to report to Site Senior Executives (SSEs), who would then ensure risks to safety and health are at an acceptable level. The Committee also discussed the potential for adverse action to be taken against an employee if the SSE was notified. Ultimately, the Committee recommended that the Minister consider amending the Bill to expand the notification requirement to include notifying SSEs.
Key things you need to know
Pending the changes in the Bill being passed by the Queensland Parliament, resources industry stakeholders should consider implementing measures to ensure that:
- officers understand their proposed new ‘due diligence’ duty to proactively ensure their corporation is in compliance with safety and health legislation
- steps are in place to notify the Department and the relevant SSE when a mine worker is diagnosed with a reportable disease, such as coal mine dust lung disease
- for designers of plant for mine sites and for manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant or substances to mine sites, steps are in place to notify the chief inspector and the relevant mine operator of hazards or defects they become aware of regarding the plant or substances
- the Safety and Health Management Plans of contractors and service providers are incorporated into the mine’s single, integrated mine SHMS and all induction and training has been completed before work starts. The mine’s management structure will also need to include the name of the person responsible for managing the system of work for contractors and service providers, and
- employees holding statutory certificates of competency comply with obligations of continuing professional development maintain competence for the life of the certificate.
Stakeholders in the resources industry should also be aware that the changes:
- empower the regulator to:
- suspend or cancel statutory certificates and other competencies if companies or individuals fail to meet their obligations or commit an offence in any Australian jurisdiction
- impose civil penalties (an administrative fine) of up to 1,000 penalty units for non-compliance, but noting that this may not necessarily prevent a prosecution for the breach also being initiated, and
- release relevant safety information about accidents or high potential incidents where this information will provide important learnings to industry.
- broaden inspectors’ entry powers, allowing them to enter off-mine site premises
- increase penalties for industry safety legislation breaches to be more closely in line with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) penalties, and
- create a public register of certificate holders.
This publication covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.