Australia: Queensland miners - Are you ready for an audit?

Last Updated: 11 November 2012
Article by Shae McCartney and Amy Lee

Key Points:

Queensland miners should be ready for an audit on their safety and health management systems and induction programs following a reported increase in the number of disabling and lost-time injuries in the Queensland mining sector.

The Queensland Office of the Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health recently delivered its Annual Performance Report 2011-2012 to the Minister of the Department of Natural Resources and Mine, Queensland as part of its statutory reporting obligations.

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate Annual Performance Report 2011-2012 has highlighted the ongoing challenges facing the mining industry:

  • An increase in lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) in underground coal mines from 4.2 in 2010-11 to 6.8 in 2011-2012;
  • An increase in LTIFR in other mining areas (excluding quarries);
  • One fatality at a quarry near Moranbah;
  • An increase of 410 high-potential incidents in all sectors; and
  • 375 directives and 1444 substandard condition or practice notices were issued to mines.

Priority and focus on regulating mining safety health – what employers should be ready for

The Queensland Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health has announced its strategic priorities are:

  • "Audit and inspection of contractor management system and induction programs;
  • Statutory officials have discharged their obligations; and
  • Audit persons appointed to the management structure at coal mines and the competencies of persons appointed as supervisors to ensure these senior positions are held by people with competencies to effectively manage the risks associated with various hazards on mine sites".

The Queensland Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health has reaffirmed undertaking the following initiatives:

  • promote the use of proximity detection/collision avoidance to reduce the number of vehicle accidents;
  • finalise the fatigue guidance notice;
  • reiterate the need for all underground coal mines to have systems in place to detect spontaneous combustion with suitable control mechanisms available to be applied early if required;
  • investigate exposure to respirable crystalline silica;
  • review and monitor of polymeric chemical use in underground coal mines;
  • manage fume (Queensland Guidance Note 20 'Management of Oxides of Nitrogen in Open Cut Blasting');
  • review current safety and health management systems to assess how plans may be simplified; and
  • roll out strategies towards implementing the National Mine Safety Framework 2011-12.

Lesson and practical tips for Queensland miners: Contractor Management System

A particular focus of the audit will be on contractor management. Under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act contractors must comply with the Site Safety and Health Management System (SHMS).

Mine operators should ensure their SHMS are effective and that they take into account of all of its (sub) contractors and their (sub)contractor employees.

Consider whether your SHMS addresses the particular risks of contractors and is flexible enough to address different types of work undertaken by contractors and particularly, expert contractors:

  • ensure you document obligations / responsibilities of various duty holders;
  • consider documentation management eg. competency, induction records etc.
  • consideration of boundary of workplaces and interface management plans;
  • review your Contractor management / communication plans; and
  • review your Contractor and subcontractor Agreements.

Some tips which may assist operators' contractor management

  • Require contractors to show how they will comply with the SHMS as part of the tender process;
  • Assess contractors on their safety performance as part of the contract review/renewal process and provide regular feedback on identified areas of concerns;
  • Be engaged in the monitoring of high-risk activities;
  • Initiate correspondence to the Contractor asking them to evidence change management process or compliance with identified risks;
  • Paper trail response from Contractors and follow up on any identified area of concerns;
  • Undertake bridging / alignment processes for changes;
  • Draft Management System review / assurance processes;
  • Require and close out on Contractor Audits;
  • Seek engagement of and advice from independent expert;
  • Require Contractor management / communication plans;
  • Act immediately on identified non-compliance or risk;
  • Manage contractor employees through contract terms – don't treat them as employees of the operator;
  • Consult with experts on areas of their expertise; and
  • Identify where relying on contractor experience.

Some tips which may assist contractors manage their obligations

  • Document contract terms appropriately;
  • Require provision of relevant information from operator;
  • Require information on audit and responses;
  • Implement system of consultation;
  • Manage own documentation (even if also kept by operator);
  • Act immediately on identified risks or non-compliance (including by operator);
  • Actively manage your employees (they are workers of the operator – not their employees);
  • Conduct and close out auditing;
  • Training of employees is vital;
  • Empower employees to report issues (even if they raise difficult issue);
  • Embed culture of open and transparent management of safety issues; and
  • Identify and document where relying on operator expertise.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

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