ACARP ACARP ACARP ACARP
Mining and the Community

Communication Strategies and Mechanisms that Maximise the Effectiveness of Informal/Mental Risk Assessment Programs

Mining and the Community » Mining and the Community

Published: February 07Project Number: C13078

Get ReportAuthor: Sue Leveritt, Jim Joy | University of Queensland

This ACARP project was designed to identify communication strategies and mechanisms that maximise the effectiveness of informal, or mental, risk assessments. Data gathered from questionnaires and focus groups tells us how the coal mining workforce communicates and identifies how well existing communication mechanisms complement the communication preferences of both supervisors and non-supervisors. The data also provides a measure of the perceived effectiveness of a range of communication mechanisms commonly used during the shift and which impact directly on informal risk assessments. Differences between the way supervisors and non-supervisors communicate and differences in communication styles across work areas, crews and contractors are also identified.

The findings from data analysis and focus group interviews have been overlaid with communication theory to develop a model of communication that addresses the factors that contribute directly and indirectly to good decision making, which plays a significant part in the management of hazards in day-to-day work.

This report identifies the strategies and mechanisms used to communicate information that creates situational awareness, hazard awareness and understanding of the related risks and control measures in place. These factors, along with training and design of the process, impact directly on the informal risk assessment process. An accurate knowledge of the workforce communication profile also enables the site to use leadership effectively to drive the communication process. The workforce surveyed indicated a strong preference for face to face or on the job delivery of training and a heavy reliance on the frontline supervisor for provision of information about situational awareness.

Communication of information that contributes indirectly to the quality of informal risk assessments is far less reliant on verbal interaction, which is the communication mechanism most favoured by the questionnaire respondents. The leadership approach, development of a positive safety culture, overall quality of training, availability and currency of technical and lessons learned information, and a general knowledge management system that is designed as a communication tool as well as a reporting and recording tool are all indirect contributors to good communication for informal risk assessments.

Lessons learned about past, unwanted events are the most popular means of imparting experience to the site workforce. Mentors have a role to play in this process, by helping individuals to understand the relevance of these lessons to their own workplace and tasks, with champions and trainers adding leadership to the development and dissemination of relevant case studies to support training.

Feedback is one of the most important aspects of any communication system, and is an integral part of the informal risk assessment process. As communication that impacts directly and indirectly on the informal risks assessment process is predominantly verbal and informal, a feedback process that addresses this factor, such as facilitation of informal focus groups, needs to be designed and implemented. 

Performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the leadership approach, the feedback process, reporting and recording process, and decisions resulting from informal risk assessments are indicated as useful parameters of the communication system.

While each participating site has implemented some aspects of communication discussed, further research is suggested that includes the design of information required to drive the informal risk assessment process, a process to streamline the frontline supervisor’s role in creating situational awareness, and the development of improved mechanisms for imparting relevant lessons learned to the workforce. Most importantly, investigation into an effective feedback process to capture informal feedback would be a major step forward in improving the quality of decisions made on the job.

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