Regan responds to Anderson article

Staff Reporter

Regan responded to an article on a paper given by Ian Anderson, published on ILN on March 5. (See the related article)

Regan pointed out that the word "punitive" as used in Anderson’s colloquium paper synopsis was used in relation to aspects of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 1983 as amended by the various governments of NSW, not the Department of Mineral Resources policy or practice. He added that police involvement is NSW law under the Coroners Act where the police act as the Coroner's representative.

Regan wrote:

Dear International Longwall News,

I am disappointed to see the sensational style of reporting of an important paper contributing to safety improvement in the NSW Coal Industry.

The paper by Senior Inspector Anderson used case studies to help owners, managers and consultants understand their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983, as amended and the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1982, as amended. The cases provided actual circumstances and enforcement outcomes related to serious accidents. There is absolutely no suggestion that the Department of Mineral Resources adopts a punitive stance in relation to fatal accidents.

The publically released "Enforcement of Health and Safety Standards", January 1999, policy document and accompanying statement concerning prosecutions makes it clear that the Department adopts a reasonable, community based approach to enforcement. The statement concerning prosecution has been developed with close regard for the "Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. Guidelines for the making of decisions in the prosecution process". Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. 1996 Reprint.

The policy was released to help stakeholders understand the processes and criteria that the Department of Mineral Resources uses, and that these are firm, fair and anchored in the expectations of our society. To apply the term "punitive" is to trivialise the serious consideration applied to determine the choice of enforcement action for a given incident. It further misses the point by implicitly confusing "prosecution" with "conviction and penalty". The prosecution process is a neutral process that brings information to the notice of our courts and asks the court to decide whether conviction is warranted and if so what penalty should be applied.

The message is clear. The Department has adopted a transparent, reasonable but consistent policy that enables the appropriate degree of action for a given circumstance. Owners, employers and managers have a duty of care for the health and safety of their people. The community expects that duty to be fully honoured.