On 23 May 2013 NSW Government introduced the Work Health and Safety (Mining) Bill 2013 into the Legislative Assembly, where it was passed without amendment. In this article, we look at some of the key features of the Bill.
The Work Health and Safety (Mining) Bill 2013 (the Bill), when passed by the Legislative Council, is to be read as if it formed part of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (the Act) and will apply to all workplaces where mining operations are carried out.
The NSW Minister for Resources and Energy has said that the Bill ‘finalises implementation of the national harmonisation of work health and safety laws in New South Wales’ and that it ‘allows New South Wales to adopt the provisions of the national model Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation and additional provisions developed cooperatively by the New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia regulators, unions and employer groups.’
Notification of serious incidents
The Bill establishes a notification scheme where the mine operator is required to notify the regulator immediately after the mine operator becomes aware that a notifiable incident has occurred. A notifiable incident means the death of a person or a serious injury or illness of a person, or a dangerous incident prescribed by regulations. A similar requirement is imposed on a person conducting the business or undertaking from which the notifiable incident arose.
Any person who has a duty to notify the regulator of a notifiable incident and each person with management or control of (or part of) the workplace must ensure that the site of the incident is not disturbed until an inspector arrives.
Where a notifiable incident occurs at a coal mine, the industry safety and health representative must also be notified of the incident.
Failure to comply with a requirement under the notification scheme is an offence with a maximum penalty of $10,000 for an individual or $50,000 for a body corporate.
The Bill allows inspectors to issue an improvement notice if the inspector reasonably believes that a person is likely to contravene a provision of the Act.
Inspectors can also issue a prohibition notice if the inspector believes that activities involve or could involve a serious risk to the health and safety of a person or contravene a prescribed provision of the Act.
The regulator can issue a stop work order requiring a person conducting a business or undertaking at a mine to stop any activity at any place in the order. The order may also require the person to carry out associated activities in order to make the place safe. A stop work order may be issued if the regulator believes it to be necessary to prevent a serious risk to the health or safety of any person. Failure to comply with a stop work order is an offence with a maximum penalty of $100,000 for an individual (and a further $10,000 for each day the offence continues) or $500,000 for a body corporate (and a further $50,000 for each day the offence continues).
Safety representatives at coal mines
Under the Bill, Industry Check Inspectors are renamed Industry Safety and Health Representatives, but the eligibility criteria remains the same. To be appointed as an Industry Safety and Health Representative, there must be less than four persons currently appointed to the role and the person must be nominated by the CFMEU (Mining and Energy Division) and hold a WHS entry permit. Industry Safety and Health Representatives will continue to have the power to suspend mining operations at coal mines if the representative is of the opinion that there has been a failure to comply with the work health and safety laws or with the safety management system and that poses a danger to the health and safety of workers at the coal mine. Failure to comply with such a direction is an offence with a maximum penalty of $10,000 for an individual or $50,000 for a body corporate.