New requirements for the appointment of individuals to safety critical roles at Queensland coal mines
New provisions will take effect in the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) (the Act) from 25 November 2022 with respect to the appointment of persons to statutory positions at coal mines – often referred to as ‘safety critical roles’.
The amendments recently passed by Parliament in the Coal Mining Safety and Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (Qld) (the Bill) provide that a coal mine operator must not appoint a person to certain statutory positions unless the person is an employee of:
- the coal mine operator; or
- an associated entity of the coal mine (e.g. a subsidiary of a parent company); or
- an entity that employs or engages 80% or more of the coal mine workers at the coal mine.
The direct employee requirements will apply to persons appointed to the following positions:
- Site Senior Executive (although will not apply where only exploration activities are being carried out);
- Open-cut Examiner (is excluded from being an employee of an associated entity of the coal mine);
- Underground Mine Manager;
- Ventilation Officer.
The amendments also include new provisions for the appointment of persons to act in the above statutory positions where the substantive position holder has left the role or is temporarily absent.
Why have the changes come about and what do they mean for coal mine operators?
The changes are designed to ensure statutory position holders who have significant influence over the operations of the coal mine are empowered to speak up and raise safety concerns without fear of reprisal. This is based on the position that persons who are employees of the coal mine operator feel more secure and comfortable to do so than those who are engaged as contractors. The under-reporting of safety incidents in the coal mining industry was highlighted in the Brady Review conducted by Dr Sean Brady in 2019 and in the findings of the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry in 2021. However, the Board of Inquiry in its Part II Report provided on 31 May 2021 did not identify whether there were actual risks of reprisal, or whether this was a perception not necessarily based in reality. Despite this, it was observed that perception is as dangerous as reality and therefore must be ‘vigorously addressed’ (see paragraphs 11.187 to 11.189 of the Part II Report).
As such, whatever the reality is, the changes for employment of statutory position holders have been made and will come into force.
Coal mine operators in Queensland are encouraged to review their current arrangements for the appointment of persons to statutory positions. Such appointments made on or after 25 November 2022 will be subject to the new provisions.
For more information on these changes, or any assistance with coal mining safety and health matters, please reach out to us.
This publication covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.