BMA doubtful over QLD industrial manslaughter reforms

Image: BHP

BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has made its concerns known to Queensland Parliament that the industrial manslaughter reform bill could have an opposite effect to that intended.

BMA highlighted in its submission that it was supportive of the bill’s objective to strengthen the safety culture in Queensland’s resources sector, but had doubts over the bill’s current form.

The company recommended the individual offence of industrial manslaughter be limited to the most senior levels of an organisation, excluding senior site executives (SSEs) and those reporting to them.

“The use of the term ‘senior officer’ as it is currently defined – without expressly excluding SSEs and those reporting to them … – is a significant cause for concern,” BMA stated.

“… The proposed ‘senior officer’ offence is likely to have unintended consequences in Queensland’s coal mining industry (and) a noticeable negative effect on SSEs who work within good safety systems and take all reasonable measures to achieve safe outcomes.

“We have already seen this effect within our business, in that the proposed ‘senior officer’ offence has already generated significant anxiety amongst our SSEs and those reporting to them.”

BMA stated the SSEs were concerned they would become a target once the new laws commence and be punished “despite their best efforts and overwhelming commitment to mine site safety.”

SSEs already carried liabilities under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, where they face a maximum penalty of $400,350 or three years’ imprisonment when failing to meet those responsibilities, according to BMA.

“The anxiety held by SSEs could force the prioritisation of legally defensive behaviours,” BMA stated.

“This could, for example, lead to a decreased willingness to be proactive and transparent with safety information.

“… We cannot accept such an outcome, particularly at a time when we are continuously improving our safety culture. .. We welcome the opportunity for further engagement on these important matters.”