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An update to Queensland’s approach to health and safety in the resources sector

By Damian Roe and Alison McKee / 02 June 2020
4 min.
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Worthwhile read for: Mining Industry Practitioners

As of 1 July 2020, the resources safety framework will be changing with the implementation of a new legislative framework which will introduce a new statutory body to govern the safety aspects of the resources industry. 

The importance of these changes has been at the forefront of our minds given the recent incident at a prominent Queensland coal mine. If you are a company operating in the Queensland resources sector, we recommend you familiarise yourself and your team with these changes. 

In this article, Partner Damian Roe, Senior Associate Alison McKee and Solicitor Hannah Watson discuss the implications for resources companies in light of this new safety framework.

On 18 March 2020 the Queensland Government passed the Resources Safety and Health Queensland Act 2020 (RSHQ Act), which will commence on 1 July 2020. 

On 18 May 2020, the Queensland Government tabled the Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Legislation (Safety and Health) Amendment Regulation 2020 (Regulation), which amends the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017, Petroleum and Gas (Safety) Regulation 2018, Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017, and Explosives Regulation 2017 (Resources Safety Regulations) in line with the RSHQ Act. These amendments will also come into effect on 1 July 2020.

Under this new framework, the RSHQ Act:

  1. establishes a new independent statutory body, ‘Resources Safety and Health Queensland’ (RSHQ), which will regulate the safety and health within the state’s resources sector by:
  • protecting the safety and health of persons in the resources industry;
  • regulating safety and health in the resources industry;
  • monitoring compliance with, and the effectiveness of the resources safety acts; and
  • carrying out commercial activities incidental to RSHQ’s main functions;
  1. establishes an employing office which works with the RSHQ where employees will perform work for the RSHQ as well as other functions conferred to these employees by the State;
  2. facilitates the appointment of a Commissioner for Resources Safety and Health, who will:
  • advise the Minister on matters relating to health and safety in the resources industry;
  • respond to request by the Minister for advice;
  • be a chairperson of both the coal mining safety and health advising committee and the mining safety and health advisory committee;
  • engage with representatives in the explosives sector, petroleum and gas sector and protect the safety and health of persons who may be affected by the operation of the resources sector; and
  • act independently, impartially and in the public interest;
  1. ensures that for any proceeding commenced prior to 1 July 2020, the Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health will be considered as the Commissioner for Resources Safety and Health as if the procedure was started under this RSHQ Act;
  2. amends the existing resources safety legislation, so that a proceeding for an offence under these Acts may only be taken on the complaint of the workplace health and safety prosecutor (WHS Prosecutor) for a serious offence, or the complaint of the CEO of the RSHQ or the WHS Prosecutor for all other offences. Serious offences include offences prescribed by regulation or those that cause multiple deaths, death or grievous bodily harm, bodily harm or involved exposure to a substance that is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm; and
  3. amends the various resources safety acts including the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, the Explosives Act 1999, the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017, the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 to implement these new changes.

Companies operating in the resources and energy sector in Queensland should ensure their health and safety teams are up to speed with these changes, and that any relevant policies and procedures are updated by 1 July 2020 to reflect these changes. We also suggest that companies familiarise themselves with the new statutory body, the RSHQ, and the role it will play in the state’s resources sector.

If you would like further advice regarding the changes to the resources safety framework, please reach out to our Resources and Energy team. 

Authors
Damian Roe
Partner
Damian is a Partner of our leading Resources, Energy and Projects practice.
Alison McKee
Senior Associate
Alison is a Senior Associate in our leading Resources and Energy practice.

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