What are prohibition, improvement and do-not-disturb notices for petroleum and geothermal energy operations?

Legislative basis

When petroleum inspectors become aware of non-compliance with an occupational safety and health requirement of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 or related regulations, they may issue verbal directions.

These are followed up with a written direction. The written directions are known as improvement notices or prohibition notices. Only inspectors may issue these notices.

What is an improvement notice?

An inspector may issue an improvement notice when the inspector is of the opinion that:

  • a listed occupational safety and health law is being contravened

or

  • a provision of a listed occupational safety and health law has been contravened and the contravention is likely to be repeated.

An improvement notice may be issued to either the operator or an employer (other than the operator).

The notice will specify:

  • the contravention that the inspector believes is occurring and justification for that belief
  • a reasonable period within which action must be taken to prevent any further contravention and may specify actions that are to be taken.

An improvement notice is essentially an order to improve an activity or workplace that is breaching an occupational safety and health law.

If reasonable grounds exist, the inspector has the power to extend the improvement notice period. This will be done in writing before the end of the notice period.

What is a prohibition notice?

An inspector may issue an operator with a prohibition notice in order to remove an immediate threat to the safety or health of a person.

The notice must specify the activity in which, in the inspector’s opinion, the threat to safety or health has arisen, and set out the reasons for that opinion. It will direct the operator to ensure that the activity is either:

  • not engaged in

or

  • not engaged in in a specified manner.

and may specify actions that are to be taken to remove the threat to safety and health.

A prohibition notice is essentially an order to stop an activity or remove a hazard considered to be dangerous or likely to become dangerous.

What is a do-not-disturb notice?

An inspector may issue a do-not-disturb notice for a specific period that the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe is necessary to:

  • remove an immediate threat to the safety or health of any person

or

  • allow the inspection, examination, measuring or testing of a facility, or any plant, substance or thing, for use in a petroleum operation or geothermal energy operation.

A do-not-disturb notice is essentially an order to stop an activity or isolate a hazard pending further investigation by an inspector.

Recording the notice

On receiving the notice from the inspector, the operator’s representative must:

  • give a copy of the notice to each safety and health representative (if any) having group members performing work that is affected by the notice
  • display a copy of the notice at a prominent place at or near each workplace at which that work is performed.

Ending the notice

A notice ceases to have effect when an inspector notifies the operator in writing that the circumstances of the situation around the notice have been addressed.

Requesting a review of the notice

A review of the notice decision may be applied for by:

  • the operator of the petroleum operation or geothermal energy operation or any employer (other than the operator) who is affected by the decision
  • the safety and health representative for a designated work group having a group member affected by the decision
  • a workforce representative.

The request must be made in writing to the Director Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety.

During the review process:

  • a prohibition notice remains in effect unless the Director Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety gives written permission to the contrary
  • an improvement notice is suspended
  • a do-not-disturb notice remains in effect.

The Director Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety can cancel, uphold or modify the notice.

A prohibition notice remains in force until it is formally lifted, even if there is an appeal. Failure to comply is an offence under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967.

Appealing the Director’s decision following a review

The decision of the Director Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety may be appealed to the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal.

Find out more about the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal

The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission has more details on referrals and lodging applications with the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal.

Contact

For any enquiries please contact a member of the Critical Risks Team
Email: CriticalRisksPS@dmirs.wa.gov.au
Phone: (08) 9358 8002 (office hours) or 0437 973 672 (after hours)