At the end of August, it was announced that the Western Australian government are pushing to introduce new industrial manslaughter legislation. Similar legislation proposals are even further progressed for Victoria and the Northern Territory.

The following is a snapshot of safety and compliance practices within the resources industry and a breakdown of the impact these changes could have. MyPass® Global feel we can play a role in helping more people come home safely, whilst preventing senior executives from getting into hot water in the first place. 

So what have they proposed?

The proposed legislation would come into action when there is a fatality on-site as a result of negligence by the employer. Two charges will be introduced including Industrial Manslaughter Class One as the most severe, which would carry a prison sentence of up to twenty years. Body corporates would also be at risk of fines up to $10 million if it’s proven that they were at fault for the incident. Interestingly, these same laws already exist in Queensland although no persecutions are yet to be made under them.

The laws are part of a $12.9 million general investment in safety by the West Australian Government and fall under a Work Health & Safety Bill. The main intention is to introduce better protection of workers by increasing responsibility for anyone involved in the events leading to workplace death. 

How will it impact workers?

If successful, this legislation is intended to provide workers in the WA resources sector with greater peace of mind for their own safety. It would also provide assurance that those responsible for their protection have serious consequences for their actions.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said, “We want to see workers operate in the safest conditions possible.” The last workplace fatality in Western Australia occurred back in August 2018. More recently, in the past year across Queensland, there have been six deaths in the resources industry. 

How will it impact businesses? 

Part of the proposed legislation is that there will be more than twenty new safety inspectors introduced throughout the state. Although the logistics and details of this deployment have not yet been clarified, this means that any breaches of compliance or safety standards will be picked up more consistently due to increased eyes on the ground.

The additional laws would mean greater personal consequences for people in positions that manage safety and compliance.

But is introducing laws like these the solution to improving safety and reducing deaths in the resources sector?

The answer to this key question is upon the organisation. Chris Rodwell from the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes that the laws will only distract businesses from reducing safety concerns as they will concentrate efforts on defending themselves first.

There are a number of companies (some of which are our clients), who take a proactive view towards injury prevention and at all levels truly believe that everyone has the right to return home safely. These companies will always put health and safety above production or profit, so for these organisations, I expect there will be no change.

However, those organisations that just see health and safety as a mandatory compliance activity are likely to get exposed to gaps in their systems and processes. As an example, most processes that exist to ensure a worker’s training and competence, are convoluted, highly manual and prone to human error. We have found that sites have unintentional safety information gaps because there’s too much manual intervention or they solely trust their labour providers to be on top of it without any safety net. Companies with this ‘old fashioned’ approach who aren’t working off integrated industry data sets with their contracting partners will be the ones who are caught out, hopefully before any serious incidents occur.

So what is MyPass®’s role in all of this?

Companies that have joined the MyPass® ecosystem believe in taking a proactive and simplified approach to ensuring the right workers with the right skills are on-site. This enables each layer of the supply chain, from training institutions to workers, to contracting partners and sites, to have real-time visibility. This is possible through access to independently verified worker qualifications and training through their own private dashboard. Workers are proactively reminded of training expiries and their employers can overlay training matrices to check for gaps in their worker pools. If sites can have full transparency prior to mobilisation, then the old fashioned 'check it at the gate' approach becomes null and void. Live, in-field data also deals with the change of duties issues that arise from having a linear approach to checking worker compliance.  

Having more cops on the beat will definitely improve the situation and detect gaps organisations may have. However, substantial progress will only happen when there is an intrinsic belief at all levels of an organisation that proactive health and safety management is standard practice. MyPass® will keep doing its part by working with innovators in the health and safety space and hope that over time, industrial manslaughter will be a thing of the past.