Environmental News

State puts site safety back into operator hands

Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion recently announced the state government’s support of a new Resources Safety Bill that will modernise and harmonise WA’s mines safety regulations.

According to a press statement from the minister, the new legislation would incorporate the “best elements” of the nationally developed model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation and the National Mine Safety Framework (NMSF).

Elaborating on this, WA Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) senior inspector of mines Anil Atri – who is currently involved in the development of the legislation – told Quarry, “The new legislation is primarily based on the WHS model and will be modified to suit the WA resources sector. The WA legislation will adopt from the model the concept of duty of care of a worker placed on a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU). Another important concept that we will be adopting from the model is the emphasis it places on risk management.

“As far as the NMSF is concerned, Queensland, New South Wales and WA have been working together and we believe that the mine operators understand their mines best, and the onus should be on them to identify and analyse their hazards and take precautions against them.”

Atri explained that for this reason the regulations would be modified to be less prescriptive. “We want all mine operators, including those who operate quarries, to have a comprehensive safety management system and manage their hazards and health and safety risks accordingly.”

The new legislation would require all mine operators to develop, implement and maintain a safety management system specifically designed for their mines, with two important components of these systems being the principal hazard management plan and principal control plan.

Atri said the DMP would also be providing additional technical and safety outcome details in codes of practice that would be approved by the minister, noting that two codes relating to ground stability and operation of mobile equipment are currently being developed for quarrying operations.

Streamlining legislation
The ministerial release explained that one of the main purposes of revising the legislation was to consolidate and simplify safety laws across the state’s resources industry, and to align them with those of other states. However, it was noted that certain aspects of the legislation would not apply in a WA context, in which case these sections would be amended or removed.

“One example is the removal of Part 7 of the WHS model, which covers workplace entry by WHS permit holders. This aspect is covered in WA under other legislation and therefore there is no need to duplicate it,” Atri said.

“Another example relates to the regulations for underground coal mines which were developed by the NMSF. WA does not have any underground coal mines; therefore, these drafting instructions don’t apply to us and will not be incorporated.”

Other proposed legislative changes are currently being considered by a ministerial advisory panel, whose purpose is to provide input and make recommendations to the DMP and the minister on the development and implementation of the reforms.

The panel, which is comprised of representatives from industry, unions and the state regulator, has met four times since it was established in January this year.

Marmion said the development of the new legislation was an important step in reducing the risk of harm in one of WA’s most important sectors.

“The new legislation will bolster WA’s reputation as a world-leading mining jurisdiction,” he said.

The Resources Safety Act, which is expected to be in place by mid-2016, will initially replace the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994, with the inclusion of other safety legislation requiring further investigation.

More reading
Queensland and NSW first to pass new OHS bill
OHS harmonisation – From the Act to the Codes
States contemplate framework for national OHS scheme

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