Australia reinforcing safety legislation for offshore oil & gas workers

Following a review of the offshore safety regime by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, a new legislation has been introduced to the Australian parliament to bolster safety for the offshore oil and gas workforce in Commonwealth waters.

Illustration; Source: Australian Energy Producers

Madeleine King, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, who introduced the legislation, said these changes would implement the outcomes of the safety review and better align provisions of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 with Commonwealth work health and safety laws. This legislation is part of the Australian government’s ongoing commitment to improve occupational health and safety outcomes for the country’s offshore resources sector workforce.

“Worker health and safety is a top priority for the Australian government and our resources sector. Nothing is more important than ensuring that every worker can come home safely at the end of a swing. The government will always support a strong and resilient resources sector. Together, we have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of the men and women who work on offshore projects,” highlighted King.

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Furthermore, the 2024 bill related to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage legislation amendment regarding safety and other measures will strengthen the role and training of health and safety representatives; allow health and safety representatives to request a review of safety management documents; and improve worker protection against discrimination and coercion.

In addition, it will clarify the definition of health in Australia’s offshore legislation to include physical and psychological health; improve health and safety rules for diving operations and dive vessels; and strengthen and simplify reporting requirements for serious injury notifications.

King explained: “Offshore safety rules and regulations are not set and forget – the government will continue to review and update the rules and legislation for the health and safety of workers in offshore industries. The government will shortly commence a new offshore safety review to identify further opportunities to harmonize the offshore petroleum safety regime with our national work health and safety laws.”

Moreover, the government has committed $12 million to review Australia’s offshore environmental management framework to ensure its regulatory system is fit for purpose for a decarbonizing economy. Australian Energy Producers, representing Australia’s upstream oil and gas exploration and production industry, claims that offshore approvals reform is a step towards energy security.

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Samantha McCulloch, Australian Energy Producers’ Chief Executive, commented: “Regulatory certainty is desperately needed for these large investments and this move is a step towards a clearer process for all stakeholders. The current regulatory system with projects being delayed in courts at huge cost, despite receiving approval from the national regulator, is untenable.

“These are critical new supply ventures, emission reduction projects and decommissioning processes so an urgent resolution is needed for Australia’s energy security and net zero transformation. Minister King and the government have listened to the concerns of industry and other stakeholders in recent months and are acting.”

The new legislation, which advances the process to fix Australia’s offshore regulatory approval regime is perceived to be an important step towards restoring the nation’s economic and energy security. Therefore, Australia’s oil and gas industry has welcomed King’s moves to streamline the reform process after months of uncertainty for major energy supply, CCS, and decommissioning projects.

“We will work with the government during the ongoing consultation process to ensure the best outcome for all stakeholders. Regulations must provide clarity and certainty for industry while maintaining comprehensive and meaningful consultation with traditional owners and stakeholders,” added McCulloch.

The Australian government has set the wheels into motion to come to grips with a brewing cauldron of uncertainty surrounding the offshore regulatory approvals system, emphasizing the need for clear regulations to enable the country’s economic and energy security.

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One of the main pillars to tackle this will be the government’s new gas strategy. Woodside is one of the contributors to this strategy.