What’s new for dangerous goods safety legislation?

What is happening with the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 (the Act)?

In consultation with industry, a statutory review of the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 was completed in June 2014. The review focused on the effectiveness and efficiency of the legislation since its implementation in 2008, and resulted in 16 recommendations.

What are the main changes to the Work Health and Safety (Resources and Major Hazards) Act?

Work has started on implementing the key review recommendations during the next three years.

The major hazard facility (MHF) regulations will be moved to the new Work Health and Safety (Resources and Major Hazards) Act and regulations and, as part of that process, modified in accordance with the recommendations of the statutory review of the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004.

What are the benefits of the changes to the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004?

The main benefits arising from the changes will be reduced licensing complexity and approval times (i.e. “red tape”), which will enable greater focus by both the Department and industry on the main purpose of the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004, which is the safe management of dangerous goods.

Why is the MHF safety legislation being replaced?

National and state reform programs have recognised the need to streamline and improve the regulation of workplace health and safety.

Currently, safety at MHFs is regulated under two separate Acts, two sets of regulations, and two regulators – the department and WorkSafe. This is not the most efficient and effective structure to achieve safety objectives.

While some safety risks are unique to each industry sector, there are common elements. With this in mind, the department identified an opportunity to streamline and simplify the legislative structure.

A regulatory impact statement (RIS) public consultation process was conducted in late 2014. It recommended the unification of safety legislation covering mining, petroleum and MHFs into a single Act, with one regulator, the department.

What are the main changes for MHFs?

Process safety at MHFs is currently regulated by Resources Safety Division using the Dangerous Goods Safety (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2007 under the Act.

Occupational safety and health at MHFs is currently regulated by WorkSafe under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and regulations.

These provisions will be consolidated and modernised under the single Work Health and Safety (Resources and Major Hazards) Act. The Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 will be retained as a separate Act, excluding MHFs.

Although there will be many generic provisions, the consolidated Bill does not represent a ‘one size fits all’ approach. There will be safety provisions in the Act, and particularly in the regulations, specifically covering MHFs. Current safety standards will not be diminished in any way, and a safety case approach will be used.

The proposed Work Health and Safety (Resources and Major Hazards) Act will:

  • consolidate safety provisions under one Act and one set of regulations, covering onshore and offshore petroleum and pipelines, geothermal energy, diving and MHFs
  • require all petroleum and MHF operators to prepare and implement a Safety Case
  • enable safety management for petroleum, pipelines, and major hazard facilities to be combined under a single Safety Case, if appropriate
  • require the operator to submit a Safety Case to the regulator for acceptance — the operator may not start activities until the regulator has accepted the Safety Case
  • ensure that over the entire life cycle of an asset, a Safety Case will be in place that covers all activities that occur on site, inclusive of any construction, operation and decommissioning activities
  • transfer responsibility for the regulation of occupational health and safety at MHFs from WorkSafe Division of the Department of Commerce to DMP
  • contain performance-based provisions dealing with the reduction of risks to a level so far as in reasonably practicable
  • minimise prescriptive requirements specifying how hazards must be controlled
  • dis-apply the Gas Standards Act, WHS/OSH Act and Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) regulations, to avoid conflicts with prescriptive requirements (the Electricity Act and other Dangerous Goods regulations will remain in force)
  • include transitional provisions to phase in the new requirements.

What are other benefits for MHFs?

Petroleum safety and mine safety provisions will be consolidated in the new Act, bringing more consistency. Currently, some MHF operators also operate petroleum facilities and/or pipelines which feed into or out of the MHF, and some MHFs on mining operations are regulated under both the dangerous goods and mines safety legislation. Under the new legislation, MHFs that include petroleum facilities and pipelines can have the entire site covered under one safety case, with one Act and one regulator.

When will the new legislation be introduced?

The introduction of new legislation is dependent on the outcome of the State election and the priorities of the Government. Extensive stakeholder consultation will resume once the Government approves work on the draft Bill to recommence.

Guidance material will be developed to help industry understand and comply with the new requirements.

Transitional arrangements will enable industry to phase in the new legislative requirements.

What will happen to fees for MHFs?

The MHF fees provisions will be consolidated under the Work Health and Safety (Resources and Major Hazards) Regulations.

Later, the Department will undertake a wider review of cost recovery legislation, under a separate process and with appropriate consultation.