The Guideline seeks to assist mine site managers to develop, authorise, provide and maintain a safe workplace, by providing an overview of duties and suggesting procedures to ensure adequate supervision on Western Australian mine sites. With the potential introduction of positive duties of due diligence on directors and officers of a company the Guideline has the potential to be very important. Companies should review the Guideline to assess how their system differs to that proposed and consider if it is necessary to make any submissions to permit flexibility.

If approved, the Guideline will apply to all mines in Western Australia.  Compliance with the Guideline will not be mandatory but it may have legal standing if it is demonstrated that the Guideline is the industry norm. In such a case a company would have to demonstrate to a Court in the event of a prosecution why its different system was as good as that set out in the Guideline.

The Guideline has been developed following review of mining fatality reports from 2000 to 2012 for Western Australia showed that workers within the first two years on a job were at highest risk of a fatal accident, particularly where the supervisor had less than three years’ experience in the role. In many of the fatal incidents, work was being undertaken largely unsupervised or outside the scope of established procedures. 

It promotes a systematic approach to plan and implement policies that ensure the safety and health of employees on a mine site. The need for adequate supervision is emphasised in the Guideline, with three chapters and an appendix discussing how best to provide supervision and overcome impediments to supervision. 

The Guideline also confirms that levels of supervision at a mine need to be commensurate with the scale and complexity of the operation, and potential consequences of ineffective supervision. For example, where the potential hazards and risks are significant, and controls to effectively reduce exposure are limited, the workforce will require closer supervision.

The Guideline proposes that where supervision is not continuous, management should determine what is reasonably practicable in terms of the time and distance required to be covered by individual supervisors inspecting workplaces and workers under their control. Resources should be reassigned or additional supervision provided as necessary to maintain effective supervision. Companies need to have contingency arrangements to cover the absence of primary supervisory personnel.

The Guideline includes a table which details the actions each level of management should be undertaking to promote workplace health and safety. Some examples of recommended actions and duties include:

  1. Corporate Management –
  • Establishes a culture of safety in the organisation;
  • Initiates site risk analysis; and
  • Systematically inspect workplace systems, procedures, conditions and practices to ensure standards are met.
  1. Mine Management –
  • Devotes resources to safety and health;
  • Ensures contractors are effectively supervised; and
  • Ensures systems are in place to assess that workers are competent to perform their duties.
  1. Supervisor –
  • Observes and mentors workers for safe work outcomes;
  • Assesses competency of workers to undertake tasks;
  • Identifies and controls hazards in accordance with the Act and regulations; and
  • Reports to management on the state of workplace conditions and practices.
  1. Team Leaders –
  • Complies with the employer’s instructions on health and safety;
  • Confirms team are competent to perform their duties; and
  • Coordinates team to ensure work is carried out safely.
  1. Safety and Health Representatives –
  • Identifies and requests training needed to carry out role;
  • Actively participates in safety and health committee meetings; and
  • Liaises with workers, management and inspectors.

The Guideline advocates the “plan-do-check-act cycle” to develop, maintain and deliver effective safety and health management.  Each stage of the cycle is broken down and important steps that should occur at that stage are identified.  For example, in the plan stage, employers are prompted to design policies to meet legal requirements, address safety and health matters and enable an appropriate response to issues or risks.

The Guideline also sets out what is expected of management to provide an adequate and appropriate level of supervision of workers which includes ensuring that:

  • those in charge know what is expected of them in terms of health and safety, including understanding:
  • legislative requirements
  • the organisation’s safety and health policy
  • how safety and health is managed at site
  • task-specific procedures
  • their role
  • training is provided for the specific hazards of their work processes, and those responsible for supervision understand how the risks are expected to be controlled
  • supervisors are aware of new or inexperienced workers under their supervision, or those whose first language is not English, and know how to deal with potential problems due to unfamiliarity, inexperience and communication difficulties
  • workers under their supervision are assisted to understand the risks associated with the work environment and measures required to effectively control them
  • the control measures to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards are current and being properly used, maintained and monitored
  • arrangements are in place to check that contractors’ safe systems of work meet the organisation’s expectations.

The Guideline appears practical and will likely be an effective aid to ensure all levels of management understand and plan their applicable responsibilities under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act.  It sets out suggestions and methods in a comprehensive and simple way to assist mine site managers fulfil their duties. It also helpfully sets out a list of signs which may be indicators that supervision may be poor.

With the potential introduction of positive duties of due diligence on directors and officers of the company the Guideline may take on a new importance for management in how they set up the supervision of sites. Companies should review the processes set out by the Guideline to assess how their system differs to that proposed and consider if it is necessary to make any submissions to permit flexibility in how they set up site supervision.

Any interested parties are invited to comment on the Guideline. The Draft Guideline: Effective Safety and Health Supervision in Western Australia Mining Operations is available on the DMP website. Submissions close 12 noon on Friday 11 July 2014 and can be emailed to RSDComms@dmp.wa.gov.au or sent by post to Manager Safety Communications, Resources Safety, DMP, 100 Plain Street, EAST PERTH WA 6004.