Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Regulations (No. 5) 2010 - disallowance - Motion
Date:Thursday, November 25, 2010
Hon Alison Xamon; Hon Norman Moore; Hon Jon Ford
Pursuant to standing order 152(b), the following motion by Hon Alison Xamon was moved pro forma on 19 October —
That the Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Regulations (No. 5) 2010 published in the Government Gazette on 14 September 2010 and tabled in the Legislative Council on 21 September 2010 under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, be and are hereby disallowed.
HON ALISON XAMON (East Metropolitan) [7.00 pm]: I wish to explain why I moved this disallowance and give a bit of background to the matter. Testing and tagging of portable electrical equipment on construction sites no longer needs to be done by a licensed electrician. It is now required to be done by a competent person. Clauses 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 of the Australian/New Zealand Standard 3012 requires that a person who tests electrical equipment to make sure it is working properly has to tag it after testing. This process is known in the industry as tagging. A competent person must undertake the testing of electrical equipment. This is a person who has acquired, through training, qualifications or experience or a combination of these, the knowledge and skills required to test electrical equipment competently. The testing of electrical equipment requires specific expertise and interpretation of results and therefore can be carried out only by appropriately qualified or trained people who are able to recognise electrical hazards or potentially unsafe conditions. The person carrying out the test must know what to look for and what to do.
There are two levels of competency associated with this type of work. The first is a licensed electrician with electrical qualifications and skills using electrical testing instruments that give actual readings requiring technical interpretation. The second is a person who is not qualified in electrical work using a pass–fail type of electrical test instrument known as a portable appliance tester that automatically tests electrical equipment plugged into it. The result requires no technical interpretation. In this case, the person would need to have been trained and satisfactorily completed a competency-assessed training course on testing and tagging using a PAT. The course needs to have been conducted by a registered training organisation accredited to deliver the training under the vocational education and training system. When this regime was put in place, there was an understanding that the competent person would be issued with a statement of attainment or certificate from the registered training organisation. There was an understanding that people would then be issued with an identifying number that would be unique to the holder and indicate the registration number of the registered training organisation. It is this matter of the identifying number that is at issue.
Regulation 3.62 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations provides that a competent person can undertake tagging. I have already clarified how that person is defined. Some types of tagging must be undertaken by a qualified electrician, according to the Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991. Other types of tagging can be done by a competent person other than an electrician—that is, a person who has done the training course that I explained. The issue of the state-recognised identification number has been confirmed with Challenger TAFE as something that was meant to be pursued. When a qualified electrician tags, he or she is currently required to write down his or her name and licence number or permit number on the tag. However, when a competent person who is not an electrician tags, there is no requirement for that person to write down his or her identification number. That is one of the problems with the amendment.
Since I have moved this disallowance, it has also come to my attention that not only is there not a requirement for a competent person to write down a registration number, but also it would appear that a competent person will not even be issued with a registration number. In addition, there will be no central registration of those numbers. This is entirely different from the regime that exists for electricians. If electricians undertake tagging of equipment, they have to identify their name and registration and if there is an incident on a construction site, for example, or problems emerge as a result of that tagging, one can go back and identify the person who undertook the work. The problem with these regulations is that they do not have that same level of requirement for people who have undertaken the training who then identify as a competent person.
I am not here to dispute the regime of having a competent person undertake that role, and whether it is useful. It is about the issue of tagging and making sure that people who are qualified as competent people are subject to the same identification regimes as electricians. It is very strange and quite concerning that people who are lesser qualified to undertake tagging will be subject to less stringent qualifications than people who are fully qualified. I am sure that this may have simply been an oversight. I am hoping that it is simply an oversight and it is something that can be rectified. I am aware that this issue has been subsequently raised with the Serials Industry Systems Advisory Committee. I suspect that it will be subject to further discussion.
I have raised this issue as a notice of motion to be discussed, probably towards the middle of next year at the rate that we have been going through motions. I am hoping that at that point it will be unnecessary for us to proceed with the motion. Clearly, the government has four options. First, the house can disallow the amendment regulations and a new set of amendment regulations can be made to include the suggested amendment, which is that competent people be required to have identification numbers on their tagging. The second is that the government may undertake to make the requested amendment to the principal regulations during this debate. Third, we can wait until I move the motion on the notice paper to have the principal regulations amended. There is a fourth option, which is always available to the government; that is, it can simply ignore this, and it reserves the right to do that. If the government chooses to go down that path, that is a mistake. If we are serious about safety issues, it is very important that we do all we can to ensure the safest regimes that we can. This is not asking anything of a competent person that we do not already ask of our electricians. It is a standard safety procedure. I am treating it as though it is an unintentional oversight. It seems very strange that people who are less qualified than electricians will not be subject to equally stringent regimes of tagging so that we can identify when something goes wrong.
HON ALISON XAMON (East Metropolitan) [7.14 pm] — in reply: I thank Hon Jon Ford for his comments and the opposition for its support. I also thank the Leader of the House for his comments. It certainly was not my intention to undo the regulations in their entirety. However, I was left with no option, I was led to believe, but to move for a disallowance in order to have this very important issue addressed. I appreciate that the Leader of the House is prepared to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Commerce. That would be really helpful. As I have said, I am sure that this can be easily and appropriately resolved. I certainly accept the Leader of the House’s comments about the Australian Qualifications Framework and about how the AQF system does not provide a unique identifier. I understand that has also been brought to the attention of WorkSafe, and that WorkSafe is now interested in seeing whether there is some way to have that issue resolved as well, because that does also seem to be quite an oversight. As I have said, this matter will be revisited sometime towards the middle of next year when my motion on notice comes on. Although it is my strong preference to be able to withdraw that motion, I think everyone is keen to see an appropriate resolution of this matter, and hopefully that will be able to be achieved soon.
Question put and negatived.