Open Cut

Improving Visual Communication of OH&S in Coal Mines

Open Cut » Health and Safety

Published: July 14Project Number: C22044

Get ReportAuthor: Jem Wallis, Geoff Denman | Cat.Dog Research and Creative

In the first stage of the project we looked at how visual OH&S communication is currently working at two coal mines in New South Wales. Our findings were consistent across both sites and provide us with some clear directions and working hypotheses.


We found that, beyond basic compliance signs, there is very poor recall of any OH&S visual communication. Quantitative data shows recall at these sites is an average of just 6.8 signs per miner. When one considers the total number of signs at these sites this number is low.


We believe this poor recall is due to the level of clutter (too many safety messages competing for attention with other signs); poor rotation (signs left in the same place for too long) and poor placement (signs placed in positions where they have low impact).


We also discovered that focusing on serious injuries rather than minor ones and the effect of any injury to a miner on his wife and kids are key communication areas likely to resonate most strongly with coal miners.


In the second stage of the project we examined how visual OH&S communication at two additional sites is viewed and how this compares with the results from the first stage.


At a macro level our findings show there is a good deal of consistency across these four coal mines which provides us with some clear directions and working hypotheses.


However whilst specific executional guidelines will be required there is a good deal all sites have in common. The results from stage 1 were validated in stage 2:

· In general there is very poor recall of OH&S visual communication;

· This is due to the level of clutter, poor rotation and poor placement;

· Focusing on serious injuries rather than minor ones and the effect of any injury to a miner on his wife and kids are key communication areas likely to resonate; and

· The role of peer-to-peer communication, real injuries and simple to the point messaging are all vital.


From these results we have developed a new idea for OH&S communication using our framework of the Insightful and Inspirational Truth.


The Insightful Truth is about searching for a relevant notion people already believe to be true; it is a key, basic human insight that motivates and explains why people act the way they do.


Across our research we found a common belief that accidents are the result of poor decisions often caused by moments of complacency. From here we developed the Insightful Truth - Years of experience and training can be all undone by just one moment of complacency or poor judgment.


From this insight we want to develop a broad idea which can be used to encompass very specific and different OH&S messages tailored to the requirements of individual sites. It needs to be something which can be used for MSD, Specific Hazards, Fatigue, Complacency, Driving related risk and so forth. We also want it to be something which reminds miners to stop and pause at critical moments even though the sign isn't there at the moment a potentially risky decision needs to be made.


In stage 3 of the project we examined different OH&S signs using this line and tested the concept at 4 mine sites.


Once the new OH&S visual communication has been developed it is important it is placed at points on site where it will cut through; only addresses specific hazards relevant to the site; is rotated regularly; and is supported by tool box talks or other verbal communication to drive home the key messages in the posters.


So the success of this project is not just about putting up a new sign. It is about initiating an OH&S media and communication strategy which utilizes the material we have developed; tailors it to the needs of the individual site and then implements it in a way which maximizes response using the guidelines we have developed.


Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.

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