Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024

Policies, Publications & Submissions - March 7, 2024

Submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee Inquiry


The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to make this submission on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill (Bill). These changes to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Act (OPGGS) are long overdue and will improve the protections and rights of workers in the offshore oil and gas sector.

Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy working environment. The ACTU has long supported the harmonisation of best practice work health and safety arrangements across all Australian jurisdictions. This harmonisation principle ensures that all workers, irrespective of location, industry or workplace size, is afforded the same high standard of protection from hazards and rights at work. This principle also states that sector specific differences should only apply where they are objectively justified reason and are designed to provide a higher level of protection.

This principle has also been supported by commonwealth, state and territory governments for more than 15 years. In 2008 the Workplace Relation Ministerial Council (WRMC) agreed to harmonise OHS laws across the country, without distinction. In the years that followed Safe Work Australia commenced work to develop a Model Work Health and Safety Act (Model WHS laws) and a Model Work Health and Safety Regulations (Model WHS Regulations) which are supported by Model Codes of Practice and guidance.

From 2011 all jurisdictions, with the exception of Victoria (who’s laws are largely similar and were used as the basis for the model), commenced implementing their version of the Model WHS Laws and Model WHS Regulations. These laws are routinely reviewed and monitored by Safe Work Australia with the Model WHS laws, regulations, codes of practice regularly updated to ensure emerging hazards and risks are identified and appropriately controlled.

To date the offshore oil and gas sector remains one of the few occupational health and safety jurisdictions that has not been harmonised. Work in offshore oil and gas is amongst some of the highest risk work in the world. The remote nature of the work, combined with exposure to serious physical and psychosocial hazards, means that workers face the very real prospect of serious injury, illness and death at work. Despite these risks workers in this sector are afforded some of the least rights and protections of any in Australia.  

The ACTU welcomes the improvements outlined in this Bill. However, whilst these changes will go some way to closing the gap in rights and protections for workers in this sector there is more to be done in these areas. We have outlined a range of concerns and made recommendations to a limited number of matters that both seek to improve the protections and rights for workers and HSRs as well as harmonise these provisions with our Model WHS Laws.

In making this submission we welcome the Minister for Resources announcement to commence “a new offshore safety review to identify further opportunities to harmonise the offshore petroleum safety regime with our national Work Health and Safety laws.” This review will provide a genuine opportunity to realise the goal of harmonisation and ensure that all workers, irrespective of location or industry, have an equal right to a safe and healthy working environment.

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