The Western Australian mining industry faced multiple deaths in 2013, while 2012 was fatality free

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30th January 2013, Perth, Australia: The WHS Act commenced on 1st January 2012 and was passed by the Commonwealth aiming to harmonise occupational health and safety within Australia. NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory adopted the Act immediately; with South Australia and Tasmania adopting the Act on 1st January 2013. However, Western Australia, along with Victoria are yet to adopt the Work Health Safety Act 2011.

On 29th November 2013, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for Victoria and Western Australia to harmonise their OHS laws. Mr Shorten claims by adopting the new laws “it will reduce red tape and deliver safer workplaces”. While Victoria does not have plans to implement the WHS Act; Western Australia plans to adopt the Act early this year, however, to date there has been no announcements confirming when the WHS Act will be adopted. Western Australia still disagrees with the following four areas of the WHS Act: penalty levels, union right to entry, health and safety representatives’ capacity to direct cessation of work and reverse onus of proof in discrimination matters.

Last year, the Western Australian mining industry was faced with multiple deaths and serious injuries. Fortescue Metals went under scrutiny for their safety practices after a worker was injured at the end of 2013. They breached safety procedures and two workers were killed at their Christmas Creek mine. Australian Mining reported that “while there have been no mining fatalities in the Midwest for almost five years, the Department of Mines and Petroleum said the recent incidents were troubling”.

Simon Ridge, Resources Safety Executive Director, Department of Mines and Petroleum has made comments about the recent incidents and deaths stating “it is unsettling and disappointing that these incidents have occurred, so it is up to my inspectors to get to the root cause”. Research indicates that incidents such as these typically occur due to human error, distractions and poor safety cultures.

The mining and construction industry face other safety issues such as fatigued workers. University of Sydney’s Dr Margaret Chan states “workers take short cuts when they are really tired. They may ignore safety signage in the same way a person influenced by alcohol could”. She also expressed that there needs to be a “greater emphasis on the importance of recovery. Managers should ensure workers take regular breaks and should also provide facilities allowing workers to recover from the fatigue and stress that comes with working in high-risk environments.” 

At the Western Australian Safety in Construction Conference, attendees will hear from the following experts Max Crowther, Safety Manager, Thiess Australia, Catherine Herriman, Regional SHE Manager Western, Leighton Contractors and Mick Buchan, Secretary WA, CFMEU. Key stakeholders involved at the Conference include National Safety Council of Australia, Force Access, ProjectLink and St Johns Ambulance.

More information on the Western Australian Safety in Construction Conference 2014 can be found at www.safetycon.com.au.   

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