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Safety management systems

The establishment and implementation of a safety management system (SMS) is a key work health and safety requirement for mines.

The SMS should be documented, easily understood, accessible to workers and form part of any overall management system that is in place at the mine. The SMS will be the mine operator’s primary means of ensuring that the health and safety of workers and other persons is not put at risk from the mine or work carried out as part of the mining operations. It should include an appropriate level of detail on how risks to health and safety will be managed having regard to the nature and complexity of the mining operations and the risks associated with those operations.

So for example a small quarry or opal mine will not be required to document its mining operations to the same level as a large, complex mining operation such as Olympic Dam.

It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with Regulations 621-625 of the WHS Regulations for the exact details of the SMS requirements. However a summary is provided below.

Purpose of the SMS

The purpose of the SMS is to set out in a structured and organised way the particular aspects of the mine’s operations that influence the safety outcome of workers and other people at the mine. The SMS will document:

  • a safety policy which outlines the mine operator’s intentions in relation to how he or she will manage safety outcomes
  • safe work procedures which describe how risks arising from particular hazards will be controlled (this section will include the Principal Mining Hazard Plans where they are present – for more information see Chapter 4)
  • the management structure of the mine including how resources will be allocated to safety issues (this ensures that the people who have particular responsibilities for safety are clearly identified – in small mining operations where there are only one or two workers, this will be a very simple step)
  • arrangements for consultation with workers and co-ordinating the activities of others who may be at the mine, including contractors
  • emergency procedures
  • arrangements for providing information and training and appropriate inductions for workers procedural issues such as health monitoring, reporting of incidents, record keeping and maintenance of the safety management system.
Health and safety policy

The mine operator must develop a health and safety policy in consultation with workers and must communicate the policy to all workers and Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) at the mine so they understand what is expected of them in relation to their work health and safety duties and the mine operator’s duties. This may involve displaying copies of the policy and providing it during inductions to ensure that workers understand its contents.

As part of the SMS, the policy must be reviewed at least once every three years, and as necessary, to ensure it stays up to date, relevant and effective.

The safety management system document for a mine must set out the mine operator's health and safety policy, including broad aims in relation to the safe operation of the mine.

Management structure

The safety management system document for a mine must set out the management structure for the management of work health and safety at the mine, including:

  • arrangements for filling temporary and permanent vacancies
  • requirements relating to acting positions in the structure
  • the competency requirements for positions in the structure.

Like all workplaces, workers in a mining operation need to be provided with a level of supervision that is appropriate to their experience and capability. New and less experienced workers must be provided with a closer level of supervision than workers who are more familiar with the task.

Effectiveness of safety management systems

Once the SMS has been developed, it is important that it be implemented effectively and be continuously reviewed and improved as required. How it will be implemented, reviewed and evolve is also a key part of the SMS document.

Again, smaller mines will be able to adopt a much simpler approach to this part of the document than large mining operations.