Source: Safe to Work

By: Jessica Burke

The New South Wales Minerals Council has warned against each Australian state developing its own mining regulations, saying it will put the health and safety of workers at risk.

Chief executive Nikki Williams made the comments as she addressed over 500 people at the state's biggest Occupational Health and Safety conference this morning.

Under the new national Work Health and Safety Act, each state has developed their mining OHS regulations, but Williams said the approach does not meet the aims of the federal government to have harmonised safety regulations in the mining industry.

"This is a land-mark year for health and safety reform, when the former draconian and archaic NSW OHS laws have been replaced by laws worthy of a 21st Century society, she said.

Williams congratulated the state government for improving the regulations, as promised in the lead up to the election, but said more needs to be done to ensure New South Wales is keeping up with other states.

"These changes should eliminate the tangled web of red tape for companies working across State borders that have been wrestling with up to eight different compliance regimes," she said.

"But for NSW miners, almost unbelievably, it seems our State will remain out of step with other mining states."

She revealed the NSW Minerals Council is working towards establishing harmonised workplace safety regulations.

"We're working through the final stages of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to adapt Australia's OHS legislation to the modern economy," she said.

"Safe Work Australia is currently seeking final comments on the 'core' mining regulations, but the NSW, Queensland and Western Australian governments are determined to retain some of their unique, existing State mining provisions in what are known as new 'non-core' legislation."

Williams said the Council is concerned that discrepancies will occur if states are allowed to individually draw up their own OHS models.

"Each State is drafting their new laws individually and using different models.

"There are missing components and a large number of inconsistencies.

"If this process continues unchecked, the prospect of genuine legislative reform that will deliver a world leading mining regulatory framework appears very remote.

"We are deeply disappointed that this has not been resolved and question why the core WHS regulations couldn't be developed to effectively regulate all mining states.

"All industries, including mining, should feel the full benefit of this major reform.

"We are frustrated and we can't understand why a sensible risk-based approach is being cast aside for a complicated and inconsistent regulatory system underpinning the new overarching national framework, when the ultimate goal should be better safety outcomes, not more bureaucracy."

The NSW Minerals Council has long been calling for a national approach on safety in the resources sector.

Is says it would allow the minerals industry to focus on improving its health and safety performance, rather than just compliance.

"The Australian minerals industry has the best safety record in the world and we will keep striving for our target of zero injuries," Williams said.

"Safety is our number one priority and if we were able to apply it as it was designed, the new Model Act would help us progress more quickly towards our goal of zero harm."

Read more at Mining Australia.