New Safety & Health Measures to Safeguard Miners
The Mines Legislation (Resources Safety) Amendment Act 2018 (the Amendment Act) commenced on 9 November 2018. The Amendment Act makes a number of important changes to the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (the mining safety and health legislation).
The changes are the result of an extensive review conducted over several years into the legislative framework for safety and health in Queensland mines. The department consulted widely on the changes with a view to:
- Improve safety and health management systems to better safeguard mine workers
- Embed greater competency, transparency and accountability across the mining sector
- Provide stronger compliance and enforcement powers for the Mines Inspectorate and Chief Executive, when required
New Competency Requirements
- Underground Coal Mine Ventilation Officers will be required to hold a Certificate of Competency issued by the Board of Examiners (BoE)
- This requirement will commence on a date to be set by proclamation (within 12 months from now). Officers will have 3 years from this date to obtain a Certificate of Competency
- The BoE will provide further information on this change before the 3 year transitional period starts
Minerals and Quarries
Underground Ventilation Officers' Competencies
- Underground mineral mines with more than 20 workers will be required to have a Ventilation Officer with the competencies specified by the Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee
- At mines with between 11 and 20 workers the Site Senior Executive (SSE) must be satisfied the Officer is competent.
- The amendment commenced 9 November 2018, but a 3 year transitional period has been granted (9 November 2021) to allow time to comply with additional requirements for Underground Mineral Mines Ventilation Officers.
- Site Senior Executives (SSEs) at a mineral mine or quarry with more than 10 workers are required to have a Site Senior Executive Notice by 9 November 2019 to confirm they have the competencies required by the Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee.
- Application forms and preparation resources for SSE notices are available from the Board of Examiners' website.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
- The amendments enable the development of a CPD scheme for holders of coal or minerals Certificates of Competency or Notices to ensure knowledge and skills are kept current.
- Stakeholders will be consulted before the CPD scheme is introduced through Regulation Amendments.
Improved Contractor Management
Contractor and Service Providers
- Site Senior Executives (SSEs), Contractors and Service Providers have existing responsibilities to ensure all workers are covered by a single safety and health management system at a mine site.
- The amendments clarify how SSEs, Contractors and Service Providers are required to exchange risk management information and collaborate so that Contractors and Service Providers are operating under the mine’s single, integrated safety and health management system (SHMS) which applies to all workers.
- Contractors must not start work at the mine until they have been inducted into the mine’s integrated SHMS and received training about hazards and risks at the mine (to the extent relevant to the contractor’s activities). This is intended to ensure that all workers are following the same safety critical procedures that are relevant to their work at a mine.
- Amendments also require a mine’s management structure to include the name of the person responsible for establishing and implementing a system for managing Contractors and Service Providers at the mine.
Proactive Officer Obligations
- The accountability of mine operators has increased with the introduction of proactive officer obligations similar to those under general work health and safety laws.
- Officers must exercise due diligence to ensure their corporation complies with its obligations under the mining safety and health legislation.
- This places a very clear proactive onus on corporation officers to exercise due diligence, including to take reasonable steps to ensure the corporation uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to workers from operations at mines.
- It sends a very clear message that safety and health must be considered alongside production and fiscal matters from the company board down.
- Officers of a corporation have the same meaning of 'officer' under the Corporations Act. However, the officer obligations do not apply to SSEs or those who report to an SSE at a mine, as these persons already have their own specific safety and health obligations under the legislation.
Opal and Gem Mines with 5-10 Workers
- Small opal and gem mines with between 5 and 10 workers will now be required to develop and maintain a safety and health management system for their operations.
- This amendment commenced on 9 November, but these operations have a transitional period of 3 years (until 9 November 2021) to establish a safety and health management system.
- Small opal and gem mines with 4 or fewer workers will remain exempt from the requirement to have a safety and health management system.
- Mines inspectors will continue to assist and educate all small opal or gem mines including those with 4 or fewer workers to manage risks from operations.
Compliance and Enforcement
From 9 November 2018, the Acts:
Higher maximum penalties
- Substantially increase maximum financial penalties for breaches of safety and health obligations to align with maximum penalties under Queensland’s general work health and safety laws.
- For example, the highest category corporate offenders can face penalties of up to approximately $3.9 million.
- Officers of corporations can face maximum penalties of up to $780, 000 and all other individuals can incur maximum penalties of up to $390, 000.
- Introduce civil penalties of up to $130,000 that can be imposed by the Chief Executive for clear breaches of certain serious requirements under mining safety and health legislation.
- Examples of breaches include a mine’s safety and health management system failing to monitor for exposure to respirable dust at a mine, a site senior executive failing to have a plan in place for a principal hazard, a contractor failing to comply with a mine’s safety and health management system, and a site senior executive failing to notify of excessive dust levels.
Suspension or cancellation of certificates of competency or SSE notices
- Enable the chief executive to suspend or cancel certificates of competency and site senior executive notices for breaches of mining safety and health legislation.
- This will help to ensure that only those persons who are competent and compliant hold certificates of competency or SSE notices and undertake safety-critical roles at mines.
Mines inspectors’ entry powers to off-mine site workplaces
- Clarify mines inspector entry powers to off-mine site workplaces to ensure they can enter and inspect places such as workshops where mining equipment is being maintained.
- This provides entry powers consistent with inspectors under general work health and safety laws.
Transparency and Accountability
From 9 November 2018, the Acts:
Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers to notify the inspectorates
- Require designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of equipment or substances to also proactively notify the mines inspectorate about any hazards or defects, in addition to current requirements to notify operators and contractors.
Public register of holders of certificates of competency and SSE notices
- Provide for a public register of holders of certificates of competency and SSE notices. If a person now wants to check whether a Certificate of Competency or SSE notice has been issued to a particular person, it is possible to check through the Board of Examiners (BOE). The BOE will be able to confirm whether a person holds a current Certificate of Competency or SSE notice.
Expanding notification requirements for reportable diseases
- Allow the notification requirements for reportable diseases to be expanded, for example to medical practitioners, through amendments to the regulations.
Proactive release of safety and health information
Enable the proactive release of information by the mines inspectorates including about high potential incidents, to improve safety learnings about risk assessment and management, without prejudicing future investigations.