The WA resources sector could have harmonised work health and safety (WHS) legislation by early 2015, according to the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP). It is claimed that the Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill (WA) and accompanying regulations (WHS Resources Legislation) will contain the "best elements" of the Model Work Health and Safety Act (Model WHS Act), but include mining specific provisions.

The DMP has indicated that the WHS Resources Legislation will not include "overly prescriptive" provisions to avoid having a negative impact on the resources industry in WA. To this end, codes of practice may be used instead of some of the more prescriptive regulations contained in the draft Model Work Health and Safety Regulations.

The regulation of major hazard facilities will be transferred from the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 to the WHS Resources Legislation. The incorporation of safety provisions currently contained in the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967, Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982, is also being considered.

The WHS Resources Legislation will be regulated by the DMP Resources Safety Division, which currently regulates the resources industry. This includes taking responsibility for WHS on major hazard facilities, which is currently administered by WorkSafe.

What does this mean for WHS harmonisation beyond the resources industry?

No recent announcement has been made by the WA Government regarding the implementation of the Model WHS Act beyond the resources industry. However, DMP and WorkSafe intend to put together a joint submission to the WA Government, proposing that the Model WHS Act and WHS Resources Legislation pass through parliament together. The concurrent implementation of both sets of legislation would be consistent with the WA Government's previously stated position.

To assist in this move towards harmonisation, a Ministry Advisory Panel on Safety Legislation Reform has been established. The Panel will provide advice to the DMP Minister on communicating and implementing the reforms to ensure common understanding. The Panel will also consider proposals, provide comment and endorse information sent to the Minister.