The Western Australian State Government is currently seeking submissions from stakeholders on proposed reforms to safety laws in the resources industry.
The resources sector in Western Australia (WA) has been given a preview of potential reforms to safety laws that are planned for commencement on 1 January 2017, with the release by the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) of the Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill 2015 (WHS(R) Bill).
The WHS(R) Bill confirms the DMP’s intention to consolidate the safety provisions of existing mining, petroleum and major hazard facilities (MHF) legislation in WA into one statute that supplements the national model WHS provisions with specific clauses to regulate the resources industry and removes any provisions deemed unsuitable.
The release of the WHS(R) Bill follows the tabling in Parliament in October 2014 of the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 (WHS Bill) for general industry in WA, also based closely on the model WHS laws.
The key changes from the current legislation governing resources safety in WA include the main provisions that have come to characterise the national model WHS laws and also feature in the WHS Bill for general industry, including:
- A change of the primary duty holder from employer (in respect of its employees) to the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) (in respect of all ‘workers’, a much broader category).
- A positive duty for officers to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with any duty or obligation under the WHS(R) Bill, by reference to specific categories of knowledge and conduct that an officer must address to discharge the duty. This constitutes a substantially increased onus on the most senior personnel within a company with regard to safety.
- Expanded ‘upstream’ duties for designers, manufacturers, importers/suppliers and installers in relation to plant, substances and structures.
- Express duties for the PCBU to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same matter (referred to as horizontal consultation), and to consult with workers who carry out work for the PCBU who are likely to be affected by a WHS matter (vertical consultation).
- Significantly increased penalties for breach of the laws are also proposed.
Other key changes to the resources safety regime will be included in regulations that are yet to be released, but will ultimately support the WHS(R) Bill, including specific requirements in relation to the content of safety management systems for mining operations and safety cases for petroleum operations and MHFs.
The WHS(R) Bill expressly states that it is indicative only and does not necessarily represent the Government’s settled position, so in that light, public submissions may well have an impact on the outcome.