21 January 2013

New national safety regulators established

The National Transport Commission has commenced the new year with the establishment of two new National Regulators in both the Rail and Heavy Vehicle industries.  

The National Rail Safety Regulator (NRSR) commenced on 20 January 2013 and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) on 21 January 2013.   While the offices of the two Regulators have been established, their powers to regulate safety nationally have only taken effect to a limited degree at this stage, as discussed below.

Rail Safety

The NRSR is based in Adelaide with branches in the other capital cities and is tasked with administering, auditing and reviewing the accreditation regime for rail operators and enforcing compliance with Rail Safety National Law. 

Currently the NRSR only regulates rail activities in the Northern  Territory, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania as these jurisdictions have already implemented the Rail Safety National Law.  These jurisdictions now need to report incidents to the NRSR using the approved forms.

It is expected that Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory will follow suit and be regulated by the NRSR under the Rail Safety National Law within 12 months, subject to the passing of the laws in each jurisdiction.

The NRSR has commenced operations by issuing policies, guidelines and fact sheets (which can be viewed here).

Road Transport Safety

The NHVR based in Brisbane is an independent national Regulator for heavy vehicles (over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass) currently managing  the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme and Performance-Based Standards Scheme design and vehicle approval.  Later in 2013 the NHVR will administer the Heavy Vehicle National Law.  The Heavy Vehicle National Law was passed by Queensland Parliament in late 2012 and an amending bill introduced in November 2012 is anticipated  to be passed in the first quarter of this year. 

It is expected that the other jurisdictions will use the Queensland legislation as a template and implement similar legislation so that the Heavy Vehicle National Law has national effect. 

Despite the proposed national introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law certain aspects of heavy vehicle regulation will stay the same - heavy vehicle registration, licensing and the carriage of dangerous goods will continue to be the responsibility of the respective state and territory road transport authorities.  For more information see the NHVR website.

Ramifications

Once fully implemented, the establishment of the NRSR and the NHVR will mean that operators have consistent national safety governance of rail operations and heavy vehicles right across Australia.

What you need to do?

If you operate in an industry that is covered by these new regulators or you have contractors on your site who are regulated by these new regulators you should make yourself familiar with their safety alerts and requirements in order to ensure you properly manage the safety of work occurring on your site.  Relevant contracts should also be reviewed to ensure that they cover the applicable safety obligations appropriately.

Who does this affect?

Businesses that operate railways, or use heavy vehicles or who contract with others to provide such services to them in the jurisdictions where the new laws apply.

What do you need to do?

  1. Make yourself familiar with the new regulators requirements and take any actions required to ensure compliance at your workplace
  2. Monitor ongoing safety alerts from the new regulators
  3. Consider any relevant contracts to ensure they require compliance with the new laws.

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