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What Works Best at Improving Mine Worker Safety and Why Does it Work

Open Cut » Health and Safety

Published: August 02Project Number: C10031

Get ReportAuthor: Carmel Bofinger | SIMTARS

This research project was designed to provide a framework for the evaluation of the effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness of safety programs and initiatives at all levels in the coal mining industry and to identify the key factors affecting the success of programs. This project was funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) with additional co-operation and in-kind support from mines in New South Wales and Queensland and SIMTARS.

Traditionally, the coal industry has tended to look at the downstream outcomes of safety programs such as accident statistics. These techniques are based on 'after the fact' accident statistics and the value of these statistics in terms of prevention is limited.

The project was conducted in three stages. In part 1, the key strategies currently in use in the industry were investigated and defined by using a survey to identify the drivers, complexity, regulatory requirements, and type of program, and use of incentives. Additional information was included from recent Queensland and New South Wales mining health and safety conferences. This information was used to set the safety programs investigated in part 2 in the industry context.

Part 2 of the project assessed selected safety programs and strategies at a site specific level. Assessments were undertaken at five sites and covered a range of programs. The evaluations followed the model for evaluation proposed for the project and covered both programs already in place and programs about to be implemented.

In part 3, these results were used to identify the key components of safety programs that lead to success.

The results of the analysis of the strategies and factors associated with safety programs at an industry level were consistent with the factors identified in the individual mine site programs evaluated. The model proposed for use in evaluating the programs was effective in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the programs.

The factors affecting the success of safety programs are complex and inter-related. It is not possible to identify a single factor that guarantees success. A model was developed to demonstrate the relationship between these factors. At the simplest level, the three major factors leading to success were identified as:

  • The clear identification of the need and objectives for the program;
  • Actual and perceived commitment by management;
  • Allocation of adequate resources, including timeframe.

Management commitment greatly influences the perceptions and impacts of the programs on individuals. These in turn affect the safety behaviours in the workplace. There are intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that must be consistent with the program to allow continued success. Intrinsic motivators include personal responsibility, achievement, skills and abilities. Extrinsic motivation is about the external consequences that support the behaviour or give information for improving the behaviour. These external motivators include task feedback, workgroup norms, control and management systems. These motivators are also influenced by management commitment and a number of environmental, organisational and individual factors.

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