NSW Work Health and Safety (Mines) Bill 2013 introduced to parliament
The New South Wales Parliament has introduced the Work Health and Safety (Mines) Bill 2013 that will be, once enacted, the final step of WHS harmonisation. Gadens Lawyers explains how this bill will impact the management of mines’ health and safety.
New South Wales has developed a Work Health and Safety (Mines) Bill 2013 (Mining Bill) in consultation with Queensland and Western Australia, the other two major mining states.
The Mining Bill allows New South Wales to adopt the provisions of the national model Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations and additional provisions developed cooperatively with Queensland and Western Australia.
The Mining Bill will be incorporated into the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as a specific chapter on mining and will replace the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (Coal Mine Act) and the Mine Health Safety Act.
Current enforcement powers for inspectors and investigators will remain, but new arrangements will be introduced relating to:
- when prohibition and improvement notices can be issued
- stop work orders; and
- provides for the appointment of government officials and health and safety representatives to oversee operations.
Government officials with enforcement powers include inspectors, mine safety officers and investigators who will require specific skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications related to mining operations. People with safety critical roles will include industry health and safety representatives for coal mines as well as site specific safety and health representatives including electrical representatives.
The Mining Bill also introduces a Mining Competency Board, which will determine competence standards for safety-critical roles and undertake the assessment of people to perform those roles, which will be identified in the regulations. The Mining Bill also provides the power for boards of inquiry to be established to inquire into an event or dangerous occurrence that has caused death or serious injury at a mine, and into its causes and circumstances.
Maintaining specific mining WHS laws is a continued recognition of the high risk nature of the mining industry. While developing the Mining Bill, the NSW Mine Safety Advisory Committee reviewed the recommendations made by the Pike River Royal Commission, which was established as a result of the death of 29 underground mine workers when methane gas exploded in New Zealand’s Pike River Coal Mine. The WHS Mining Bill is considered to be consistent with the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The Mining Bill is expected to be passed quickly as New South Wales will receive $79 million in COAG payments if parliament passes it by 1 July 2013.
The introduction of the Mining Bill is also significant as the Western Australian Government had been delaying introducing the harmonised WHS legislation until the mining chapter was finalised. We may now see progression of the harmonised WHS legislation in Western Australia.