- The ACTU welcomes this opportunity to contribute our views to the Offshore Safety Review. A full list of our recommendations to the review is appended to this submission.
- As noted in the Discussion Paper, the offshore oil and gas industry faces a number of hazards due to remote locations, unpredictable weather and working with complex equipment. Yet despite the high hazard nature of the industry, safety regulation of the offshore oil and gas industry lags behind that of other industries in many critical respects.
- Harmonisation has been a core principle of work health and safety regulation in Australia since 2008, with industry-specific laws to continue only where ‘objectively justified’. Industry-specific laws continue in the offshore oil and gas industry, purportedly to address its high hazard work environment. In accordance with the harmonisation principle, the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (Cth) (OPGGS) regime should only differ from the model WHS laws only where objectively justified and to the extent that they are tailored to address the industry’s specific requirements.
- Yet significant reform is required to achieve this policy position, despite it having been agreed since 2008. In making recommendations for reform, the starting point for this review should be to apply the harmonisation principle unless there is a genuine objective justification for why it should not apply in a specific instance. Such justification ought to be limited to differences necessary to address the high hazard work environment in the offshore oil and gas industry, and not influenced by other factors such as cost. This submission highlights several areas in which the OPGGS regime is deficient with no objective justification.
- This review is occurring as Safe Work Australia considers the recommendations of the review of the model WHS laws concluded by Ms Marie Boland in December 2018 (Safe Work Australia Review of the Model WHS Laws). In accordance with the harmonisation principle, this review should adopt the recommendations of the Safe Work Australia Review of the Model WHS Laws, unless specific differences are objectively justified. This submission points to some of the relevant recommendations of that review, and a copy of our submission to that review, and to the current consultation process on the regulation impact statement, are enclosed.
- This review also follows from an inquiry into the work health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry by the Senate Education and Employment References Committee, which concluded in August 2018 (Senate Inquiry). This review ought to build on the significant work undertaken by the Senate Inquiry and by stakeholder participants. This submission references important recommendations of the Senate Inquiry. A copy of our submissions to the Senate Inquiry is enclosed.
- The ACTU conducted a survey of 381 workers employed on facilities in the offshore oil and gas industry about their experience of work health and safety in the industry (Offshore WHS Survey). The results of the survey inform our submission to this review.
- The primary issue that we urge this review to consider is this: the offshore oil and gas industry involves workers performing dangerous work in remote locations. It is one of the highest hazard industries, and yet the work health and safety regulation in the industry is deficient relative to the model work health and safety laws (model WHS laws) and other industries. That needs to change as a matter of urgency and priority.
See Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, ‘Offshore Safety Review: Discussion Paper’, A review of the offshore safety regulatory regime, June 2019, page 14.
See Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, ‘Offshore Safety Review: Discussion Paper’, A review of the offshore safety regulatory regime, June 2019, pages 10 to 12.