DPI UPDATE (Issue 17)

By on October 29, 2004

Incident Investigations and Enforcement Actions

John Mitas, Manager Minerals & Extractive Operations (Southern Region) Minerals & Petroleum Regulation Branch

The primary role of Minerals & Petroleum Regulation Branch (MPR) is to encourage and facilitate compliance with the various Acts and Regulations administered by the Department of Primary Industries.

To achieve this the Department:

  • Collect, collate and publish industry wide health and safety statistics to identify trends and monitor safety performance,
  • Conduct accident investigations to identify the real underlying causes and subsequently implement recommendations to eliminate or minimise these causes.
  • Publish significant incident reports to promote industry awareness of hazards and cost effective controls,
  • Conduct compliance audits and inspections which provide scheduled and targeted surveillance of Safety and Health management systems, recognise compliance and best practice and by follow-up ensure implementation of any necessary corrective and preventative actions,
  • Develop and review health and safety Legislation, Codes of Practice and Industry Guidelines in consultation with: – Employees, Employers, Health and Safety Representatives, Trade Unions, Industry Associations and members of the Public,
  • Conduct education programs, information sessions and forums on relevant OH&S subjects,
  • Target inspection and audit activities to focus resources on high-risk sites. Adopt a graded approach to enforcement that seeks to prevent accident and injuries occurring in the workplace.

Our policy is to respond to noncompliance with a graded enforcement approach, as listed following:

  1. Provide verbal advice and express concern.
  2. Issue an instruction, direction or notice.
  3. Issue an infringement notice.
  4. Issue an order to cease work.
  5. Initiate prosecution.
  6. Cancel the tenement.

This policy is guided by the following principals:

The enforcement response will be proportionate to the risk and/or the seriousness of the noncompliance.Similar circumstances will lead to similar enforcement outcomes.

MPR will target poor performing sites, high risk activities, serious near misses, serious injuries and fatalities.

MPR will make its various policies and standards available to all stakeholders.

Inspectors and authorised officers may choose one or more enforcement response options when non-compliance is found.

Before choosing an enforcement option, inspectors will consider the following:

  1. The nature and extent of the hazard and risk.
  2. The seriousness and consequence of the noncompliance.
  3. The compliance history of the site operator/employer/person.
  4. MPR strategic compliance priorities
  5. Public concern for the noncompliance.
  6. The impact of the enforcement action on all stakeholders.
  7. The value of the enforcement action in setting an example for other site operators/employers/persons.

The Department’s enforcement response policy applies to the investigation of complaints and incidents that are conducted by the inspectors. Generally, all serious complaints and incidents involving serious near misses, serious injuries or fatalities will be comprehensively investigated.

Other complaints and incidents may be investigated. However, these investigations will generally be summary in nature and focused only on achieving compliance with the relevant legislation, standards or tenement conditions and prevention.

The decision to conduct a comprehensive investigation is made by the management team after initial enquires and inspection have been carried out.

The inspection may lead to the collection of evidence relevant to the complaint or incident and the interview of any witnesses and/or injured persons.

At this stage the inspector may issue instructions, directions and/or notices. If the complaint or incident involves an issue that may be relevant to other sites, a significant incident report will be prepared and distributed.

To complete a major investigation, a formal interview is sought with the parties that have legislative responsibility. The purpose of the interview is to give that party an opportunity to hear and comment upon issues identified during the first stage of the investigation.

This formal interview will relate to the complaint or incident under investigation, but will be broad ranging in its conduct. Details of specific questions to be asked or issues to be raised will not be provided prior to the interview. The interview will be tape-recorded to ensure a complete and accurate record of the interview. The person interviewed will be given a copy of the tape-recording and any transcript that may be prepared.

The Department will then make a determination as to what further enforcement response, if any is considered appropriate. The relevant stakeholders will then be notified of the investigation outcomes.

The enforcement response policies of the Department Of Primary Industries are available on our website at, www.dpi.vic.gov.au

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