Accidents can be avoided if workers remember ‘WHY’ mining training is important on a mine site
An introduction to safe work practices
Many of us who have spent time working in and around the mining industry are well aware that safe work practices are an integral part of the production process.
It is also no secret that the biggest negative impact on mine site short term production will arise from a breach of safety that results in a near miss or an incident.
“mining training can practically demonstrate good work practices”
With this in mind, many mining training courses have been developed to practically demonstrate good work practices that not only illustrate ‘WHAT‘ needs to happen on a mine site to ensure an individual or group is fulfilling their workplace obligations but also ‘WHY’ it is ultra-important for workers to consistently fulfill those obligations.
Up until recently, the majority of mining training providers in Australia have focused largely on ensuring the student who was completing the training course was given opportunity to complete a number of activities that were relevant to the unit of competency being trained. Not only this; but also the student has to learn how to apply this knowledge on the mine site.
This is known as the ‘WHAT’ part of the training.
Let’s explore that a little more…
The ‘WHAT’ part of the training focuses solely on what needs to happen day-to-day on site. This is to ensure students who are in a training environment are able to effectively use the tools and apply the processes provided by mining employers to safely comply with legislative workplace obligations.
Although this is a very important part of the mining training process, when left unsupported, this type of activity can often result in a decline in the consistency and quality in which these obligations are applied.
This decline in consistency is fuelled by the repetitive nature of the mining process. Mine site workers can often find themselves running through the same processes (eg: pre-starts & risk assessments) shift to shift, swing to swing.
“familiarity and repetition negatively impact safety awareness”
The familiarity and repetition of the job at hand can create an environment of poor behaviours that can have a negative impact on the standard of safety exercised by mine workers. This in itself has the potential outcome of a greater number of workplace incidents occurring.
Basically, the decrease of safety awareness and subsequent increase in risk to the entire mine site is the end result of the introduction of ‘unforeseen hazards’.
Unforeseen hazards in the workplace are hazards that remain undetected even after thorough and routine inspections have been carried out; giving rise to incidents and near misses.
“hazards should been easily identifiable”
What is most concerning about this rise in unforeseen hazards is that in most cases, these hazards were at some point reasonably foreseeable. This means these particular hazards should have been easily identified and controlled through mine workers routinely following accepted procedures.
However, due to a culture of complacency and ignorance, these hazards remained undetected and therefore remain uncontrolled.
The real crux of the matter is, that mine workers in Australia are aware of ‘WHAT’ has to be done to make sure they are in-line with WHS procedures but neglect to acknowledge ‘WHY’ it is vital to comply with procedures with a high level of integrity.
Let me paint you a picture; this is a good example!
Billy is a dump truck operator on a mine site. Every day Billy drives his light vehicle from the camp accommodation to the area where he and the rest of the production crew participate in a shift handover meeting.
Before Billy can hop in and drive off across the site (often in the dark), a pre-start vehicle inspection must be completed. This is to ensure the vehicle Billy will be in control of is safe and compliant for use on that particular mining lease.
For Billy to effectively complete a pre-start inspection he must use a checklist provided by his employer and visually inspect each area of the vehicle listed on the checklist. If you’ve ever hired a rental car and performed a check of the vehicle before driving off – you get the picture.
If any part of the vehicle is found to be unsafe or non-compliant, the vehicle must be tagged ‘OUT OF SERVICE’ and the issues reported to his supervisor.
Once an ’OUT OF SERVICE’ status occurs, the vehicle can not be driven until the safety or compliance issues are fixed.
This is all relatively easy for Billy, but . . .
. . . Let’s jump forward 6 months, when Billy becomes a little complacent about performing the pre-start vehicle checklist procedure and fills out the pre-start checklist form without actually checking the vehicle entirely.
Some time later, Billy is driving to his morning shift handover when the vehicle he is driving loses a wheel due to loose wheel nuts, and the vehicle careers down a road and rolls on its side.
This is an example of the ‘WHAT’ in mining training being observed without the ‘WHY’.
In this example, Billy knew ‘WHAT’ needed to be done to ensure work safety obligations were observed (at least in theory), but . . . neglected to understand ‘WHY’ it was needed that those obligations be observed.
Mining training for both skilled and unskilled workers must not only provide relevant examples of how to work in-line with workplace policies and procedures; rather why adherence to workplace policies requires a high-level of integrity.
It is this introduction of behavioural-based safety into the delivery of mining training that will lay the foundations for a safer and more productive workforce.