The Australian newspaper published an article from the The Wall Street Journal titled “The hidden death toll from mining” (paywalled), written by Alistair Macdonald and others that questions the workplace health and safety prominence that is given to the minerals/materials sector. The opening paragraph is:
” Many mining deaths aren’t captured by global safety statistics, making the industry seem safer than it is to regulators, investors and consumers.”
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has released its submission (not yet online) to the Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) review of the Regulatory Impact Statement on the recommendations from the Boland review of the Model Work Health and Safety laws. It is comprehensive but contains little that is new. An interesting interpretation of the submission comes from considering how the MCA’s recommendations prevent harm, for prevention is the challenge.
Before Christmas, the Victorian Government will be presenting a Bill for Industrial Manslaughter laws to the Parliament. The core elements of accountability and penalty are expected to be little different to the Bill that failed to pass Parliament earlier this Century by a bee’s whatsit. The debate is likely to be on the same benefits and costs, so one can reread Victoria’s Hansard from 2002 or look at the debate in Queensland Parliament last week where that Government’s “Safety Reset” has generated arguments about which party is more committed to occupational health and safety (OHS).
Queensland is undertaking a “safety reset” following several recent deaths in the mining and quarry industry. This government initiative has the backing of the resources sector and has collated a good amount of safety resources in support of what is a mandatory exercise.
What is a little different in this initiative is that it reinforces that the primary responsibility for occupational health and safety (OHS) rests with the employers and company owners. In the past, government initiatives have tended to take on the responsibility for the OHS changes or imply that it is the government’s job to fix the situation and the relative safety cultures, as if it was government (in)activity that caused the problem.
Western Australia’s transition to harmonising with the Model Work Health and Safety laws is progressing, according the recently released Budget Papers for 2019/20.
Volume 1 of Budget Paper No 2 lists some significant issues for the Government and specifically the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety: