A national database to record mining industry deaths and injuries has yet to have any data entered into it, despite governments starting work on it 12 years ago.
The national mine safety database, and the inability of the states and territories to agree on new mine safety laws and regulations, have been identified as failures in a new report by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council.
Mine safety is one of 45 areas of reform in what is known as the “seamless national economy” agreement between the federal and state governments, which has just concluded after five years.
But the council said mine safety was one of three reform areas left incomplete, despite governments agreeing on the need for a nationally consistent regime.
Over the past three years, 17 mining industry workers have died on the job, according to Safe Work Australia.
In 2011/12 there were 3365 serious injury workers’ compensation claims by mine workers.
While the commonwealth, South Australian, Tasmanian and Northern Territory governments have enacted the core mine safety laws, none has put in place the related regulations.
NSW has passed mine safety laws with extra conditions for that state’s higher-risk mining activity, but not the regulations.
And the biggest mining states of Queensland and WA have not yet introduced the laws or the regulations.
This has meant that as of July last year no data had been entered into the national mine safety database, the council report said.
The idea for the database was first floated by state chief inspectors of mines in 2002 and was taken up by a steering group including all the states, the federal government, industry and unions in 2005.
A report prepared for COAG in 2009 said the database would be an important means of helping companies learn about trends in accidents and improve their safety.
Mines ministers last discussed the database at a meeting in Hobart in December 2012, when it was noted it was ready to go “pending the enactment of relevant regulations”.
However the states have argued they won’t be providing data until their health and safety laws start.