On 8 February 2018, the Senate referred the following matter to the Education and Employment References Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 14 August 2018:
Work health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry, with particular reference to:
(a) the scope and necessity for amending and updating any legislative inconsistencies in the relevant work health and safety scheme, including:
any provisions in the legislation which need to be updated,
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),
legislative changes required to the OPGGS Act to provide for appropriate consistency with the model work health and safety laws (as revised in June 2011), and
legislative changes which recognise that the work is undertaken in remote locations;
(b) the effectiveness of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and equivalent state and territory offshore petroleum regulators (the regulators) in promoting the work health and safety of persons engaged in offshore petroleum operations;
(c) the accountability framework to which NOPSEMA is subject with respect to work health and safety matters, and whether this needs to be strengthened;
(d) the role and structure of the NOPSEMA Board and options for improving the effectiveness of their stakeholder engagement;
(e) the workings of NOPSEMA’s collaboration, and working relationships, with other work health and safety regulators and bodies, including Safe Work Australia;
(f) challenges in attracting and retaining health and safety representatives;
(g) the adequacy of the protections afforded to health and safety representatives performing their functions under the relevant legislation;
(h) policies and practices which could be adopted by NOPSEMA to better support health and safety representatives;
(i) factors impacting on the work health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry;
(j) Government policies at the state, territory and Commonwealth level which have a significant impact on the work health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry;
(k) relevant parallels or strategies in an international context;
(l) the role of Government in providing a coordinated strategic approach to health and safety outcomes in the offshore petroleum industry; and
(m) any other related matters.
On 13 August 2018 the Senate granted an extension of time to report until 23 August 3018.
Conduct of the inquiry
Notice of the inquiry was posted on the committee's website. The committee also wrote to key stakeholders to invite submissions.
The committee received 15 submissions, as detailed at Appendix 1.
The committee held three public hearings:
13 June 2018 in Fremantle;
10 July 2018 in Sale; and
11 July 2018 in Melbourne.
A list of witnesses who appeared at these hearings is at Appendix 2.
Structure of the report
During the course of the inquiry the committee identified several core issues relating to the work health and safety (WHS) of workers in the offshore petroleum industry.
Chapter 2 provides background on the role and operation of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), as well as information on the core underpinnings of Australia's offshore occupational health and safety regime.
Chapter 3 turns to matters relating to the adequacy of WHS rights and protections for offshore workers.
Chapter 4 examines the effectiveness of NOPSEMA as a regulator.
The committee thanks those individuals and organisations who contributed to this inquiry by preparing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings. In particular the committee acknowledges those individual workers who shared their personal experiences of work health and safety in the Australian offshore petroleum industry.
Notes on references
References in this report to the Hansard for the public hearings are to the proof Hansard. Page numbers may vary between the proof and official Hansard transcripts.