National harmonisation of safety laws gathers momentum

The New Year is here. The year of harmonised national safety laws. 

The harmonisation process is well underway with the goal of achieving balanced and nationally consistent safety laws becoming ever closer after five jurisdictions recently enacted the Model Work Health and Safety Act (Model Act). 

New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth have all taken the final steps to ensure the commencement of the Model Act from 1 January 2012. While South Australia and Tasmania will likely take similar steps either later this year or early in 2013 to enact bills before their parliaments, Victoria or Western Australia are yet to release any bill. It is still unclear whether they will adopt the Model Act. But we are closer than ever to harmonisation.

For the mining industry, the Model Act will place the primary duties under the regulations on mine operators, and will endeavour to strike the right balance between providing the requirements that are necessary to maximise work health and safety outcomes without being too prescriptive. 

The status of the Model Work Health and Safety Regulations is a little less certain. While the regulations have been have been finalised by Safe Work Australia, they are yet to be adopted in all of the five jurisdictions which have agreed to adopt the Model Act.

So 2012 has begun, and will be a year to watch the safety space – especially for those in mining industry where safety remains a high priority.