On 22 August 2012, the Queensland Government passed the Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) (“Bill”) into Parliament. The Bill proposes to significantly affect the manner in which health and safety is regulated for the petroleum and gas industry in Queensland.

The recent commencement of the amendments to the definition of ‘operating plant’ contained in the Geothermal Energy Act 2010 (Qld) and the non-commencement of hazardous chemical provisions in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (“WHS Act”) that previously applied to the petroleum and gas industry has resulted in an unintentionally straightforward application of health and safety laws to the industry.

The Bill seeks to return the industry to dual regulation and ensure that a number of activities will be required to comply with both the WHS Act and the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) (“P&G Act”) at the same time.

Key areas of dual regulation

Industry participants should review contractual arrangements and their own health and safety policies which apply to works in the following areas which will be subject to WHS Act and P&G Act safety regulation:

  • construction work on proposed operating plant or for a stage of operating plant (eg. for the purpose of decommissioning);
  • ‘specified P&G Act authorised activities’, which are, in summary, all authorised activities on tenure which are not facilities;
  • pipelines that transport ‘produced water’; and
  • hazardous chemicals and major hazard facilities.  

The Minister in his second reading sought to clarify the Government’s intentions following a number of submissions suggesting that parts of the Bill were uncertain in their application, including the application of the P&G Act and WHS Act to pipelines that transport ‘produced water’ and the meaning of ‘specified P&G Act authorised activities’. However, no changes were made to the Bill to clarify these matters.

Key issues moving forward

The Bill seeks to dually regulate many of the activities of the petroleum and gas industry. Industry participants should ensure:

  • current SMPs, current construction contracts and health and safety policies are reviewed for compliance with the WHS Act; and
  • consideration be given to the extent to which the various Codes of Practice are integrated into existing health and safety management; and
  • incident procedures are updated to reflect the changed regulatory regime.