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The Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum has flagged the introduction of harmonised work health safety laws for the WA resources sector by early 2015.  Eleanor Jewell, Special Counsel at Allens joins us to discuss.  Eleanor welcome to BRR Media.  

Thank you.

So Eleanor why the need for such laws for the resources sector specifically?  

Well for a couple of reasons really, the first is that it's in the context of national harmonisation of workplace health and safety laws and the WA Government has long flagged that any implementation of this will necessarily take account of the importance of the resources sector in Western Australia and really any legislation in this area or regulation in this area needs to take account of the specific hazards in the resources sector.  The second reason is that it will combine the regulation of mining petroleum and major hazard facilities which are currently covered by separate acts, this will really help to simplify and clarify resources sector safety in Western Australia and in relation to petroleum in particular there are currently three separate Acts that cover that area and there's been a lot of criticism that the legislation is cumbersome and difficult to use because of the mixture of different Acts and also because of the mixture of the Acts managing resources and safety, so it's really anticipated that this will help to clarify which specific Act will apply and make it a little bit easier for businesses to know where they stand.

And do we have an indication as to what the new laws will look like?  

We do, it's anticipated that they'll replicate the general harmonised occ health and safety laws but with specific provisions for the mining sector or resources sector.  It's – there's sort of four main areas that the Government's flagged as not adopting as they are currently in the harmonised regime; those being penalty levels, which in the Government's view are too high, union rights of entry, which the Government considers is adequately covered by the existing regime, health and safety representatives having the ability to direct the cessation of work and the reverse onus of proof in relation to discrimination and the ability for the Director of Public Prosecutions to review a decision by Worksafe not to prosecute.  In terms of what would likely be included, it's likely that we'll see additional responsibilities for site senior executives who will be really – are currently known as registered managers, a primary duty on persons conducting a business or undertaking to ensure health and safety so far as reasonably practicable, and if there's multiple PCBU or persons conducting a business or undertaking, then there will be obligation to consult, cooperate and coordinate.  Other requirements will really be around consulting with workers training for statutory provisions and safety representatives and incident notification obligations, there will also likely be due diligence obligations for officers and an obligation to have principle hazard management plans for mines.

And Eleanor is there anything companies in the WA resources sector can be doing now to ready themselves for these laws you've just mentioned?  

Well the first thing I'd say is that what we really need to do is monitor what the Act or the Bill actually looks like when it comes out because at this stage we've got an idea of what will be included but we don't have a firm view of what's actually in there, so it's important that organisations monitor the space and are aware of what's actually going to be included.  If it does hit on the points that I've talked about earlier then really issues around ensuring boards get adequate information and training, updating safety management systems when it comes close to the date of implementation, a renewed focus on training and setting measurable targets and reporting on outcomes are really some good practice points to focus on.

Well a really interesting space to keep watching there.  Eleanor thank you so much for joining us.  

Thank you.