The Risk Taking Behaviour Working Party was established by the Mines Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board (MOSHAB) to devise and implement a program directed towards the eradication of risk taking behaviour and its tolerance by all levels of the work force. These matters were identified by the MOSHAB Prevention of Mining Fatalities Taskforce and raised as Priority 1.3 recommendation in its December 1997 report.
To enable the Working Party to assess the extent and nature of risk taking behaviour in the underground sector, workplace surveys of miners and their supervisors were conducted at underground mining operations in all regions of the State during June, July and August 1998.
The survey instrument took into account anecdotal and written submissions to the Prevention of Mining Fatalities Task Force which had suggested that risk taking behaviour was endemic in the underground sector.
Almost 1 000 employees and 150 supervisors were surveyed at 25 mines.
The major conclusion reached by the Working Party was that risk taking behaviour was evident in the underground mining industry but its extent was governed, for the most part, by the quality and commitment of management at individual mine sites. Reasons given by employees and their supervisors for risk taking included production pressure, lack of skills, method of remuneration , saving time and effort and lack of awareness of the consequences of risk taking behaviour. These matters have been addressed in the Working Party Recommendations.
When risk taking behaviour was reported by employees or supervisors it was invariably multi-factorial although production pressure was clearly the major contributing factor.
This production pressure was associated with other factors, which impacted according to the circumstances prevailing at respective sites. The consistency in responses by employees and supervisors on most of these factors was remarkable.
These other factors included:
♦ Workforce3 turnover and inexperience, which is placing enormous stress on the resources available to provide initial and ongoing training, and resulting in too rapid promotion of relatively inexperienced workers. This pressure is also being felt by supervisors responsible for safe working practices and by employees concerned for their personal safety.
♦ Doubt in the minds of much of the work force and some supervisors that management is committed to the philosophy that worker safety will not be compromised by production pressure.
♦ Retention by some management, older employees and supervisors of a risk taking culture which is resistant to change.
♦ Inexperienced management and mining engineers who lack communication skills and are reluctant to consult with experienced workers.
The Working Party found that significant progress has been made in raising the profile of occupational safety and health in the underground mining sector and that there is an increased awareness of the provisions of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act, particularly those related to duty of care.
Another positive observation was the implementation of value based selection procedures for all employees at new production sites with demonstrated success in employee retention and organisational culture.
The Working Party makes eight recommendations which include a follow up survey to be conducted within two years to ascertain whether risk taking behaviour has been reduced.
1. That MOSH AB endorse the underground mining competency based training proposal currently under development by the mining industry and ensure its adoption and implementation by the underground mining sector as a matter of urgency.
2. That MOSH AB ensure that the proposal for applicable training based on the nationally recognised competencies of frontline management and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission's Occupational Health and Safety Generic Competencies, identified as a Priority Issue in the MOSHAB Fatalities Report, be introduced for all statutory and non-statutory, supervisory and management positions at underground mining operations as a matter of urgency.
3. That MOSHAB conduct a follow up survey of employees and supervisors within two years of the release of this report to ascertain whether risk taking behaviour has been reduced.
4. That senior management at all underground mines ensure that they give a clear and categorical commitment to the elimination of risk taking behaviour and that this commitment becomes manifest to supervisors and the workforce through the documentation of workplace procedures that demonstrate that safe working practices will at all times take precedence over production.
5. That senior management at all underground mines ensure that wherever information containing productions targets and achievements is displayed at mining operations it is accompanied by safety targets and performance for the corresponding production period.
6. That senior management at all underground mines ensure that information concerning safety and health is not only posted on notice boards and made available in crib rooms but be the subject of regular discussion by supervisors at tool box/safety meetings together with relevant aspects of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act and Regulations and that a record be maintained of the frequency of such discussions.
7. That senior management at all underground mines ensure that the development of, or changes to, operational procedures have the direct involvement of employees in keeping with the provisions of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act.
8. That the Department of Minerals and Energy establish a program of regular mine visits by Employee's Inspectors of Mines and have the program posted on notice boards together with personal details and contact phone numbers for the Inspector in question. Inspections at mine sites by Employee's Inspectors to include attendance and participation in safety and/or tool box meetings.