Open Cut » Health and Safety
Over the last fifteen years or so, there has been a substantial shift away from reliance on prescriptive standards towards systemic risk based WHS management and regulation. There is considerable evidence that this approach, if effectively implemented, can achieve substantial improvements in WHS outcomes while providing greater flexibility to mine operators.
However, research suggests that there may be substantial obstacles to the effectiveness of risk based regulation, because: (i) mines' inspectors; (ii) industry middle management; and (iii) the relevant trade union; all prefer prescription. Research conducted for the present Report confirmed this finding, although it also found evidence that the inspectorates and middle management may be in transition, with some more resistant to change than others, and the inspectors in particular, on an upward trajectory.
But because prescription provides greater certainty, avoids taking initiative or individual responsibility and is easier to enforce, it remains attractive to some inspectors and many members of middle management. For various reasons, this approach is also endorsed by to the CFMEU, particularly in Queensland. The result is a mismatch between mining safety legislation and high level WHS practice within the coal mining companies on the one hand and 'ground level' implementation on the other. This 'implementation failure' stifles continuous improvement, inhibits innovation and constrains any further step change in safety.
The aims of this report are to examine how the behaviour of the above stakeholders can be transformed, the journey from prescriptive to risk based regulation and management successfully completed, and improved health and safety outcomes achieved.