Australia: Industrial Manslaughter and major change to statutory appointments for mining in Queensland

The Mineral and Energy Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (Bill) was introduced to Queensland Parliament on 4 February 2020 .

The policy objective of the Bill relates to the Queensland Government’s priority to strengthen the safety culture in the resources sector through the introduction of industrial manslaughter offence provisions and requiring that persons appointed to critical safety statutory roles for coal mining operations must be an employee of the coal mine operator.

Industrial Manslaughter

The Bill introduces industrial manslaughter offences into Queensland’s Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999* to bring them in line with general work health and safety legislation.

The new offences apply to:

  • Employers for a (coal) mine; and
  • Senior Officers of an employer for a (coal) mine.

An Employer for a (coal) mine, is a person who employs or otherwise engages a (coal) mine worker.

A Senior Officer, of an employer for a (coal) mine that is a corporation, is a person who is concerned with, or takes part in, the corporation’s management, whether or not the person is a director or the person’s position is given the name of executive officer.

The elements of the new offences reflect those that have been in effect under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 since October 2017. Those elements are:

  1. a (coal mine) worker dies in the course of carrying out work at a (coal) mine, or is injured in the course of carrying work at the (coal) mine and later dies; and
  2. the employer’s, or the senior officer’s, conduct causes the death of the (coal mine) worker; and
  3. the employer, or the senior officer, is negligent about causing the death of the (coal mine) worker by the conduct.

The maximum penalties for a breach of the industrial manslaughter offence are 100,000 penalty units (currently $13,345,000) for a body corporate employer and 20 years imprisonment for a senior officer.

*The Bill also introduces industrial manslaughter offences into the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 and the Explosives Act 1999. The offences are to commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.

Changes to statutory appointments at coal mines

The Bill introduces significant change to the appointment of site senior executives (SSE) at coal mines which prohibits a coal mine operator from appointing a person as SSE unless the person is an employee of the coal mine operator.

The requirement for a person to be an employee of the coal mine operator will also apply to the appointment of open cut examiners, underground mine managers and ventilation officers.

Upon commencement of the Mineral and Energy Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020, coal mine operators will have a 12 month transition period to ensure that persons appointed to these statutory positions at their mines are employees of the coal mine operator.

This is likely to have a significant impact on coal mine operators who subcontract operations at their mines, or otherwise enter into arrangements whereby the SSE (and persons in other statutory positions) is not directly employed by the coal mine operator. Coal mine operators in these categories should take steps to review the operational structures at their mines and consider how this change will affect them.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill can be accessed here.

This article was prepared by Takara Raymond, Solicitor.  

For more information or advice on this topic, please contact:

Aaron Anderson
Aaron Anderson
Partner, Brisbane
+61 7 3258 6528
Kara Reynolds
Kara Reynolds
Senior Associate, Brisbane
+61 7 3258 6327

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