Further to my previous report, there has been significant interest by members working in the diving industry with a number of submissions forwarded on to SWA and copied to the MUA. These submissions will be posted on the Safe Work Australia website.
The key issues of course are:
- - No calling up of ADAS as the accreditation agency
- - No calling up of the AS 2299.1
- - No reference to supervisor qualifications, merely experience in diving
- - The use of free diving (breath hold) and no need for a stand by diver when such activity is undertaken
- The wording around
o General diving work
o Incidental diving work
o Limited scientific work
o Construction work
The most important of these of course is the general diving and construction diving work definitions that clearly leave it open for general diving work to be undertaken in the construction field.
Paul Butler, CEO, ADAS, Rob Gatt, also from ADAS and myself met with the Queensland Government's representative and advisor to the Strategic Issues Group (SIG) on the harmonisation of OHS high risk areas which includes Part 4 Diving on Monday 14th March. This was a very important meeting as the Queensland SIG members have been the most hostile to ADAS and any regulation that interferes with the recreational diving sector in Queensland. Our view quite clearly is that while we would encourage strong regulation in any and all diving work, the most important outcome of these regulations must protect occupational divers as the MUA describes divers working in inshore/offshore maintenance, construction, oil and gas etc and that as all the regs are currently framed in the interests of the Queensland circumstance we will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater if they are not stronger regs protecting the "occupational" diver.
The QLD SIG members have a different reference for occupational diver, they include recreation, aquaculture and scientific all of which they claim do not need or want to graduate through the AS 2299 Series and therefore reference to those standards is not needed.
After significant discussion it seemed the Queensland SIG members were not completely aware of the role and function of ADAS and the importance of strong regulations in the construction area and are prepared to consider our views that we will forward to them in writing prior to the SIG meeting which will follow the closing of the public comment on the draft regs sometime after April 4th. I must say I felt much more comfortable following this discussion with them than I had before hand.
On Thursday 17th March again Paul Butler and myself met with the Department fo Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in Canberra and had a good hour and a half with two senior officials of this department that particularly deal with the issue of safetyand workplace relations and I think we were able to convince these department heads of the serious nature of the flawed draft regs as they stand and the number of questions they asked of us clearly indicated that they twoo had some misunderstandings about the role of ADAS and the relationship of the regulations and the occupational diving sector that I have described before.
They have sought and we will deliver a full submission on the presentation that we made and that will be followed up with further discussion with the department. We are still intending at some stage to meet with the relevant Minister Chris Evans responsible for this Department before this next SIG meeting to consider the regulations.
ADAS Commonwealth Government MOU
Most divers may not be aware that when ADAS was established the Federal Government, to give credibility to the scheme, developed an MOU between the parties and currently the Government department responsible is the DRET. On March 2nd RET wrote to Paul Butler and in essence indicated that they were terminating the MOU, fortunately I was meeting with the responsible meeting Martin Ferguson on unrelated matters and sought the opportunity to raise our concerns about the termination of the MOU and its implications. The Minister indicated he would contact his department and in turn they contacted Paul and a meeting was arranged for Monday in Canberra, the meeting was held with the head of the Division and two senior managers of the department. We explained the concerns from both the ADAS point of view and from the MUA's viewpoint representing divers (at this point I should say that each meeting I have distinguished that while I am member of the board of ADAS I am representing the interest of the diving membership and the industrial interests of the MUA) The discussions were quite helpful and clearly the department was embarrassed about writing that letter without picking up the phone and having some discussion with the CEO, they have agreed that the status quo will remain with the MOU in place and the parties will explore what instrument or relationship can be developed that secures ADAS's recognition that may include removal of the RET relationship and a strengthening engagement and recognition through NOPSA (National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority.) The parties have agreed that they will re-confer in four or five week's time and look at a number of international examples of diving regulator arrangements.
There are a series of meetings still to be undertaken that will include safe work councils in WA, NT, and Tasmania and there is to be divers meeting in Melbourne on 30th March Paul Butler will be in attendance to give a report on the diving regs and progress thus far. In addition to this the Tasmanian branch and Lead Organiser Bernie Farrelly will be meeting with abalone divers in Tasmania with the intention of them being organised into the union but equally give them an opportunity to hear a report on the regulations.