Report: APP CMHS Project 1

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3.1.1. Safety and Health Management

Safety and health in Australian coal mines is regulated by State based legislation. This may be in the form of overarching occupational health and safety legislation that either incorporates coal mining (with little specific content – as in Tasmania) or specific coal mining legislation that is subordinate to the occupational health and safety legislation (as in New South Wales), or as specific coal mining legislation (as in Queensland). In each case the legislation is ‘enabling’, in that it does not definitively prescribe all requirements (as in the previously British based systems) but rather describes the requirements of a management system that must be implemented by the most senior company representative to manage all hazards to levels as low as practicable. All mines therefore will have an auditable management system that complies with the requirements of international occupational health and safety standards. There is also scope for and use of other supporting standards, guidelines and codes of practice to establish benchmark standards across the industry. All systems must be derived from and maintained in accordance with a risk based approach – involving all levels of the workforce and the development of systems, plans and procedures for the operation of the mine. The premise on which this system is based is that the mine is more current with the technicalities and nuances of the operation than the regulator and is therefore obligated to establish an appropriate system. The regulator thereby has the authority to hold the mine accountable to its own established system. Each mine is also required to provide evidence that the system is managing the hazards to an acceptable standard.

The organisation structure for each mine is a key requirement of the management system and includes the provision of statutory and technical qualifications. Such statutory qualifications are obtained through sitting examinations coordinated by the regulator, and by examination from peers.

The training requirements provide for nationally recognised competencies for different levels of management and workers. As indicated, worker and management skills are competency based, i.e. proficiency in a skill must be demonstrated. Such proficiency must also be refreshed (at least every 5 years) and evidence provided that the competency is still maintained – this extends to management competencies as well as worker operational skills. Competency must also be demonstrated by all coal mine employees in the knowledge of the established mine safety and health management system.

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