The Queensland Mine Safety Framework – Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement was released on 11 September 2013. The Regulatory Impact Statement seeks comment from stakeholders in relation to proposed changes to Queensland’s existing mine safety framework.

Specifically, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DRNM) proposes four options for change to improve mining safety and health and develop greater consistency with the mine safety frameworks in place in other jurisdictions. Following an earlier consultation paper released in June 2012, two of the four options are now considered in the current regulatory impact statement:

  1. Option 1 proposes to retain the existing Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) (CMSHA) and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) (MQSHA) with amendments to align the legislation with the proposed requirements for mining from the Model Work Health and Safety Act and provisions from the National Mine Safety Framework.
  2. Option 3 proposes new mine safety legislation primarily based on the Model Work Health and Safety Act and key provisions from the national mine safety framework.

DRNM’s preferred option is Option 1.

A number of the key proposed changes are considered below.

Changes to requirements for statutory position holders

Under the proposed Option 1 amendments, additional statutory position holders under the CMSHA and MQSHA will require statutory certificates of competency issued by the Board of Examiners. Currently only five statutory positions require statutory certificates of competency. Under the proposed amendments, 16 roles (which currently exist at Queensland mines) will require statutory certificates of competency to be issued.

Other important safety roles will have minimum competencies prescribed but won’t require a board of examiners certificate.

Improved contractor management at mines

Non-core policy from the National Mine Safety Framework seeks improved contractor management through greater clarity and precision of current requirements under the CMSHA and MQSHA. All mines are currently required to operate under a single safety and health management system developed specifically for each particular site by management in consultation with its workforce however, the legislation does not guide mine operators or contractors as to how they should work together to achieve the single safety and health management system.

Changes to the rights of industry safety and health representatives at mines

The changes proposed under Option 1 support the increase of industry safety and health representatives (ISHRs) at mines from three to four in recognition of the growth of the resources sector in recent years.

Additionally, proposed amendments will either:

  • Clarify the directive that can be given by industry safety and health representatives and district worker representatives (DWRs) related to suspending operations for an unacceptable level of risk; or
  • Provide that ISHRs and DWRs will have a role in the notification of potential risks but not be able to issue a directive to suspend operations.

Under the first alternative, it is proposed that a directive to suspend operations will only be allowed when danger is imminent or immediate. If an ISHR or DWR issues a directive to suspend operations when risk is imminent or immediate, they must be on the mine site to do so and the directive will be subject to a Mines Inspector’s review and ratification within 12 hours or it will lapse.

Under the second alternative ISHRs and DWRs will retain a role in the notification of potential risks but will not be able to issue a directive to suspend operations under any circumstances. ISHRs and DWRs retain all other powers.

Other proposed areas for reform

  • Changes applying to executive officers to align with the obligations of officers in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld);
  • Longer limitation period for prosecutions;
  • Changes to offences, penalties, imprisonment provisions and additional possible court orders following a prosecution.

Stakeholders have the opportunity to make submissions to DNRM on the proposed changes. The consultation period is open until 5:00pm on 11 November 2013