Right behaviours are vital to mining safety

May 15, 2011  |  Branco Kuznar  |  safety, behavior, change, mining | 0 Comments

...but they don't always get the focus they deserve.

The industry is making great efforts to share best practice, witness Anglo American making its industry award winning Safety Risk Management Programme (SRMP) available to the rest of the industry in May last year. Since its inception in 2008 Anglo American credit it with a 29% reduction in fatalities and the number and severity of lost-time injuries by 27%.

Whilst this is all good, the industry is still struggling to prevent individuals from committing unsafe acts which inevitably leads to an accident, incident, near miss or fatality. So what more can be done?

Research demonstrates that the majority of accidents are caused by an individual committing an unsafe act, generally one that he had been told and shown not to do. Unless managers and supervisors demonstrate, by their own behaviours, that safe production is of primary importance it will not be embraced by the workforce as a whole. Therefore managers must be far more focused on establishing and enforcing the right behaviours and mindset to achieve safe operations.

We have found that supervisors have a significant impact on individual crew behaviours. A supervisor's management style and the amount of time he spends with a crew together with the degree of supervision he gives the crew, has a direct impact on the individual\'s and crew's awareness and adherence to safety considerations. What we consistently find is that the front line supervisor spends less than 20% of his day actively managing his crew in the workplace. In addition much of the supervision is done after the shift starts, so the crew is not necessarily being set up for success.

Clearly key performance indicators (KPI's) play an important supporting role in ensuring safe and efficient production as they highlight areas of potential failure and enable better preventative maintenance to be scheduled at times when it has the minimum impact on production and safety.

At one mine we worked in recently an increase in preventative maintenance of 15% resulted in a decrease in emergency work orders of around 30% and a decrease in unscheduled downtime of 24%. These operational improvements achieve significant benefits from both a safety and operational point of view. Although much of safety is focused on procedures and systems we believe the key to safe production is embedding the right behaviours.

For behaviour change to occur management need to lead by example, Cynthia Carroll CEO of Anglo American has committed to closing mines that fail to meet safety standards. Mines must implement policies and procedures that encourage best practice, through better training and reporting of incidents and penalise unsafe practices. Safe production needs to be underpinned by a proactive and preventative approach rather than a reactive and maintenance one. Only then will the aim of zero injuries become a possibility.

For behaviour change to occur management need to lead by example, Cynthia Carroll CEO of Anglo American has committed to closing mines that fail to meet safety standards. Mines must implement policies and procedures that encourage best practice, through better training and reporting of incidents and penalise unsafe practices. Safe production needs to be underpinned by a proactive and preventative approach rather than a reactive and maintenance one. Only then will the aim of zero injuries become a possibility.

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