The Senate Education and Employment References Committee’s Inquiry into the Work Health and Safety of Workers in the Offshore Petroleum Industry has held its first public hearing in Fremantle.

The Senate Committee is considering the scope and necessity for amending and updating any legislative inconsistencies in the relevant work health and safety scheme.

In particular, the Committee is considering providing for appropriate consistency between the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), and any legislative change required to ensure consistency with the model work health and safety laws.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on 13 June, David Parker, Head of West Coast Workplace Relations and Simon White, Principal Workplace Relations Consultant, gave evidence in support of AMMA’s submission, which focused on the intersection between the terms of reference and AMMA’s expertise in employee relations.

AMMA outlined in its submission that we do not consider there is evidentiary support for any further alignment between the OPGGS Act and the WHS, and that the OPGGS Act should not be amended to include union right of entry provisions as contained in the model WHS Act.

AMMA supported the view put in other submissions from operators in the industry that the OPGGS Act is robust and suitable to the offshore industry and NOPSEMA applies it in an effective and accountable manner.

“The OPGGS Act clearly deals with the appropriate parties to enter offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage facilities for OHS inspections, being only inspectors from the relevant government authority NOPSEMA,” AMMA’s submission stated.

“AMMA further notes that the Act clearly deals with and limits what role there is for workplace representatives under the Act in relation to work undertaken at these facilities.”

The submission further outlined that AMMA and its members hold concerns that if extended to offshore, the WHS Act and model work health and safety laws risk being manipulated and used for industrial purposes.

“That’s not an opinion put forward by AMMA; as set out in the submission, there are concrete examples from cases heard by the courts where they’ve made that precise finding and indeed concrete examples in the materials that were before two royal commissions that go to that exact issue,” Mr Parker said before the Senate Committee.

Further hearings are listed for Sale and Melbourne in coming weeks. The Senate Committee is due to report by 14 August 2018.

AMMA thanks members for their input and will provide updates on any developments.