Major changes to the safety and occupational health regulations for Western Australia's mining industry should assist the industry to achieve a world-class standing on safety performance, according to Mines Minister George Cash.
Mr Cash said the new standards - the most significant and progressive change to WA's occupational and health legislation covering the mining industry in the past 20 years - were contained in the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 which had been proclaimed.
He said a key feature of the new legislation was vesting the ultimate responsibility for safety and health with the corporation which owned and operated a mine.
"The Act expands on the general principles of the `duty of care' and is integral to a broader thrust to place greater responsibility for occupational safety and health issues on the industry," Mr Cash said.
The Minister said the legislation would lay the foundations for the State's mining industry to improve on its already impressive safety performance and achieve world-class standing.
"The opportunity to rewrite the mining safety legislation completely was a joint approach by Government, the employers and the workforce," Mr Cash said.
"The result is a rational mix of enabling and prescriptive regulations which received bipartisan support in Parliament and was warmly welcomed by industry."
The Minister said many of the regulations were listed in a performance-based style which presented the result that must be obtained, but did not specify how it was to be achieved.
He said the Department of Minerals and Energy's MINet computer system would provide the mining industry with a vital link to a range of the latest safety information so that it could deal more effectively with its increased responsibilities.
"It is time for the department to ease off the reins and encourage more responsibility by the mining industry, but this does not mean that intervention strategies and actions will not be required," Mr Cash said.
"Some specialist matters requiring strict regulations remain governed by detailed standards and are spelt out more clearly than in the past.
"However, the most effective approach for the inspectorate in the future will be to concentrate on auditing, advising, educating and fostering a more self-regulatory approach by industry."
Exploration activities are now covered by the Act and specific action plans have been formulated to target its poor performance in relation to safety standards. In the past this has been difficult to monitor, due to its itinerant nature and broad geographic range.
Under the Mine Workers' Health Surveillance regulations, all workers are now required to undergo a basic health checkup.
Another important provision in the Act is the requirement for a projected management plan to be submitted for new projects or existing projects which undertake major operational changes. The plan must contain strategies for managing the major risks and address emergency response issues.
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595 or 222 9211