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Mine Safety Regulation: Towards A National Approach

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: March 10Project Number: C19002

Get ReportAuthor: Neil Gunningham and Darren Sinclair | Gunningham and Associates, Australian National University

The National Review on Model OHS legislation (the Review) provides a rare opportunity to establish best practice OHS legislation Australia-wide. The first stage of the national review process was generic and involved the development of a single uniform model Work Health and Safety Act. This Act is intended to address all workers, all workplaces and all industries and to address such matters as general duties, worker participation, offences and defences. In December 2009 all jurisdictions except Western Australia, agreed to enact the model OHS Act.

Mining specific content is not included in the model Act, raising the question whether separate mines-specific regulations and codes of practice should also be introduced. There are compelling reasons for doing so, set out at 2.1 below. It is these mining specific regulations and not the model Act per se, which is the subject of this ACARP Report.

The Report does not address the minutiae of such regulations but rather the broader principles that such regulations might embrace: whether and in what ways they should address risk management and management systems, the role, if any, of a safety case, whether the regulations should be prescriptive or performance and process based, whether there remains a distinctive role for industry check inspectors and a variety of other issues discussed below.

During the writing of this Report, Tasmania and South Australia both produced draft mine safety regulations and discussion papers or similar documents. Where appropriate, relevant provisions in those drafts that overlap with proposals made below are referred to in the text.

This report is intended to inform the development of a new regulatory regime that represents best practice and that will enable work related injury and disease to be reduced as effectively and as efficiently as practicable.

To assist the industry to grasp this opportunity the Report identifies key elements of best practice regulation internationally and within Australia, relates this to the OHS management practices of leading mining companies and takes account of the particular needs and circumstances of smaller coal mining companies. It also draws substantially on extensive interviews conducted with industry stakeholders, including representatives of large and medium sized mining enterprises, industry associations, regulators and trade unions.

Drawing on the above, this Report addresses key issues relating to best practice mine safety regulation. The policy discussion is intended to inform the Commonwealth's legislative reform process (proceeding via a NMSF legislative working group and the NMSF Steering Group).

Although the report draws on the views of industry stakeholders and others, it is not an industry position paper - it is a research paper expressing the views of the authors.

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