Risk management plan (RMP) - mining operations

Under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (the WHS Act) a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of workers and others is not put at risk.

In addition, Chapter 10 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2011 (the WHS Regulations) places specific obligations and duties on mine operators, including providing to the Regulator a certified risk management plan (RMP) in accordance with Part 10.3 of the the Regulations.

Why is a RMP required?

A PCBU has duties under Section 19 of the WHS Act to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of workers and others is not put at risk from the work undertaken as part of their business or undertaking.

Section 3.1 of the WHS Regulations details how a PCBU must identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to risks to health and safety. The PCBU must identify and assess the seriousness of risks resulting from those hazards, determine appropriate risk management measures (in accordance with a hierarchy of measures), put the risk management measures into effect, and monitor and review those measures to ensure they remain effective.

By the nature of the activity, mining operations have many unique and complex high consequence risks and therefore an additional set of duties are imposed upon mining operators through Chapter 10 of the WHS Regulations. A mining operator is required to demonstrate to the Work Health and Safety Regulator that they have considered the potential hazards of the work before commencing and have determined how associated risks will be controlled.

They do this by submitting a certified RMP to NT WorkSafe in accordance with Part 10.3 of the WHS Regulations.

Who is required to submit a RMP?

Under Regulation 612 of the WHS Regulations, a mine operator has the duty to submit a RMP to the Regulator prior to allowing any mining or related activity to commence.

A ‘mine operator’ is defined under Regulation 610 as a PCBU who either:

  1. is the holder of a mining authorisation or other entitlement (such as a mineral title holder) to carry on mining activities; or
  2. has management or control of a mining activity at a mine site and has been appointed in writing to be the mine operator by the entitlement holder.

A ‘mining or related activity’ is defined through Regulation 609, in accordance with Section 4 of the NT Mining Management Act, and includes:

  1. exploration for minerals;
  2. mining of minerals;
  3. processing of minerals, tailings, spoil heaps or waste dumps;
  4. decommissioning or rehabilitation of land, plant or a structure associated with a mining activity; or
  5. operations for the care and maintenance of a mining site during the suspension of other mining operations.

When is a RMP required to be submitted to the Regulator?

The mine operator is required by Regulation 612 to submit a RMP to the Regulator before the commencement of any mining or related activity. Often where there is a staged development of a mining project, this may entail the ongoing revision of a RMP to include consideration of the new or additional mining or related activities.

In addition, Regulation 615 requires a mine operator to review and as necessary revise their current RMP when:

  1. a new risk to health and safety at a mine site is identified; or
  2. there is a change in the mine operator’s control measures for managing risks to health and safety.

If a RMP is revised, the operator must, as soon as practicable after the revision occurs, provide the Regulator with a certified copy of the revised RMP.

What should a RMP for a mining operation contain?

The content of the RMP is detailed in Regulation 613 as follows:

  1. the mine site hazards identified by the mine operator under Regulation 34, including high consequence, low probability events;
  2. the risks to health and safety at the mine site that could arise from those mine site hazards, including for each risk:
    • the nature of the risk; and
    • the likelihood of the risk arising; and
    • the likely seriousness of the consequences if it does arise;
  3. the control measures to be implemented by the mine operator under Regulations 35 and 36, including:
    • what the measures are; and
    • how they will be implemented; and
    • how their effectiveness will be monitored and reviewed;
  4. a fitness to work program for the mine site setting out how the mine operator will manage risks to health and safety at the mine site that could arise from fatigue or the consumption of alcohol or drugs;
  5. a health monitoring program as mentioned in Regulation 616;
  6. the emergency plan prepared by the mine operator for the mine site under Regulation 43;
  7. the training to be provided to a worker at the mine site who may be exposed to a mine site hazard;
  8. the records particular to the risk management plan that must be kept;
  9. the management structure of the mine operator, including:
    • the positions in the structure; and
    • the areas of responsibility and accountability of each position;
  10. the name and qualifications of the person who prepared the RMP.

If the RMP submitted to the regulator contains all of this information and is certified by a competent person, then it is a RMP under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. This means that the employer has met the obligation to submit a certified RMP to the regulator.  If the document does not contain all the information detailed in Regulation 613 then it is not a RMP and the duty has not been met.

Who can certify a RMP?

A RMP must be certified in accordance with Regulation 614. The person who certifies the RMP must be a ‘competent person’.  A competent person for this purpose is defined in Regulation 5 as ‘a person who has acquired through training, qualification or experience the knowledge and skills to carry out the task’. The person who prepares the RMP cannot also certify the RMP.

How do you determine appropriate risk management measures?

Regulation 35 states that, in managing risks to health and safety, a duty holder must;

  1. eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable; and
  2. if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety – minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Regulation 36 outlines the hierarchy of control measures that the duty holder must implement to minimise risks to health and safety, if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate those risks.

Risk is minimised by substituting (wholly or partly) the hazard with something that gives rise to a lesser risk, by isolating the hazard from any person exposed to it, or by implementing engineering controls.

If a risk then remains, the duty holder must minimise the remaining risk by implementing administrative controls.

If a risk still remains, the duty holder must minimise the remaining risk, by ensuring the provision and use of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

A combination of these controls may be used to minimise risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, if a single control is not sufficient for the purpose.

Guidance on how to achieve compliance is contained in the Code of practice - How to manage work health and safety risks, which can be found on the NT WorkSafe website.

How is ‘reasonably practicable’ determined?

Section 18 of the WHS Act defines ‘reasonably practicable’, in relation to a duty to ensure health and safety, as that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

  1. the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
  2. the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk; and
  3. what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about:
  4. the hazard or the risk; and
  5. ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
  6. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  7. after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

For further guidance on the interpretation and application of ‘reasonably practicable’, see the Safe Work Australia guidance material How to determine what is Reasonably Practicable to meet a Health and Safety Duty.

Relevant legislation

Guidance publications

How do I submit the RMP to NT WorkSafe?

The Risk Management Plan must be submitted in electronic format either by email or mailed to NT WorkSafe Inspectorate team. A covering letter from the person certifying the RMP, stating that the RMP complies with Regulation 614, must be also be provided.

Email to: ntworksafe@nt.gov.au

Mail to:

NT WorkSafe Inspectorate team
Risk Management Plan
GPO Box 1722 DARWIN NT 0801

Risk Management Plan (RMP) and Certifier cover letter for (insert mine operator name) – (insert activity location)