Client Update: Mining industry support for Safe Work Australia Bill
24 August 2009
In brief: The passage of the Safe Work Australia Bill 2008 through Parliament should facilitate progress towards harmonised occupational health and safety laws throughout Australia, including the occupational health and safety laws applying in the minerals and mining sector. Partner Igor Bogdanich (view CV) and Senior Associate Ric Morgan report.
The Safe Work Australia Bill establishes Safe Work Australia as an independent statutory agency to give effect to the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform and Occupational Health and Safety agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on 3 July 2008. The purpose of the intergovernmental agreement is to formalise cooperation between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments on the harmonisation of occupational health and safety (OHS) law, and to establish appropriate governance arrangements to support that cooperation. The most immediate priority of Safe Work Australia will be the critical role of developing a national draft model OHS Act. Its other functions include:
- developing national policy about OHS and workers' compensation;
- preparing model codes of practice relating to OHS;
- research and data collection regarding OHS and workers' compensation;
- developing and promoting national strategies to raise awareness of OHS and workers' compensation; and
- importantly, developing national policy dealing with compliance with and enforcement of the model OHS Act.
We note that Safe Work Australia's efforts, particularly in drafting the model OHS Act, are subject to the review of the Workplace Relations Ministers Council (WRMC).
There are numerous state- and Commonwealth-based laws, regulations and codes of practice governing OHS in Australia. The passage of the Safe Work Australia Bill through Parliament on 13 August 2009 is a significant milestone in the move towards a national OHS regulatory regime. Many industries, including the minerals sector, consider that the existing overlapping and multi-layered regime imposes a significant administrative burden, particularly where businesses operate across multiple jurisdictions within Australia. Consequently, the Bill's passage should enable management efficiencies to be achieved in addressing an important risk area in the minerals sector.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Council of Australia (the MCA), Mitchell Hooke, released a statement on 14 August 2009, which indicated that the MCA supports the initiatives towards national harmonised OHS laws.
The MCA has also called for the National Mine Safety Framework to form the basis of national minerals-industry specific regulation within the model OHS Act. However, as yet, there have been no specific moves by the WRMC to adopt this proposal.
When the draft model OHS Act is available we will report further.
- Igor BogdanichPartner,
Ph: +61 3 9613 8747
- Gerard WoodsPartner,
Ph: +61 8 9488 3705
- Ben ZillmannPartner,
Ph: +61 7 3334 3538
- Richard MalcolmsonPartner,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4717
- Ric MorganSenior Associate,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4093