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Changes to Work Health & Safety in the Mining Industry

Mining sectors across Australia are currently each under different legislative frameworks in regards to Work Health & Safety. At this stage NSW Work Health & Safety is enforced by their old Work Health & Safety legislation the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, with additional separate mine-specific legislation covering all coal and metalliferous mines. Whereas QLD and WA have mine specific legislation regimes separate from their principal Work Health & Safety legislative frame work, meaning any incident, undertaking of legislative requirements for the current Work Health & Safety Act and Regulations 2011 currently do not apply to QLD,WA or NSW mines.

Having separate legislative frameworks but operating under the same workers compensation claims as other industries tends to cause economical instability with QLD, WA and NSW mines accounting for an average of 2500 accepted serious workers compensation claims accounting for an approximate cost of $123million in direct claims for the period 2004-5 to 2008-9. These alarming figures lead to the proposal for the development of model Work Health & Safety regulations for mines. With the intent that mining Work Health & Safety issues that should be common to all jurisdictions will be mirrored under Work Health & Safety legislation in the core jurisdiction and under mine safety legislation in the non-core states.

The below issues are currently under consideration for the ‘non-core’ provisions:

  • Requirements for the appointment of a site senior executive at every mine
  • Requirements for additional full-time or part-time statutory mine safety positions, depending on the type of the mine and its associated hazards and risks 
  • Arrangements to ensure consistent tri-state competency requirements, assessment and approval arrangements for key statutory positions 
  • Principal control plans covering ventilation, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, explosives and emergency response 
  • Extending requirements for principal mining hazards to cover the risks of spontaneous combustion 
  • Additional specific controls for certain hazards  
  • Notification requirements in relation to prescribed high-risk mining activities, including information requirements and waiting periods before prescribed work may commence 
  • Extended incident notification, investigation and protected information release provisions 
  • Additional regulator enforcement powers similar to those that currently apply under mining health and safety laws in NSW, QLD and WA  
  • Provision for prescribed industry inspectors, for example district check inspectors and district worker representatives, and 
  • Provision for ministerial appointment of Boards of Inquiry

Incorporation of these proposed changes and national harmonization for mining practices will call for a review of current Work Health & Safety practices and procedures throughout QLD, NSW and WA mines as the current legislative requirements for each state and mining sector are independent from the current Work Health & Safety Act 2011. With the codes of practice and regulations due to roll out in the second period of 2012, many mining operations will see changes in the day-to-day operations, with any Work Health & Safety issues arising being prosecuted under the national Work Health & Safety Act 2011 and Regulations as well as non-state mining legislation.

The proposed model regulations are made up of seven parts, four schedules and one appendix. The parts relate to:

  1. Preliminary
  2. Managing risks
  3. Fitness for work and health monitoring
  4. Consultation and workers’ safety role
  5. Mine survey plans
  6. Notification of high potential incidents
  7. Mine records

The schedules relate to:
  1. Work Health & Safety – information to be included in mine quarterly report 
  2. Principal mining hazard management plans – additional matters to be considered  
  3. Prohibited uses in mines 
  4. Matters to be included in emergency plan for a mine

The appendix relates to:

  1. Jurisdictional notes

More information regarding Work Health & Safety in the mining industry can be found at the Safework Australia Website.

For further information, please contact Australian Business Consulting & Solutions on 1800 505 529 or via email.

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