Staying ahead to alleviate pressure and mitigate risk.
A recent article by Bonnie Christian for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation explores the causes for a concerning upward trend in yearly fatalities in the Western Australian resources industry since 2012, when the number of fatalities was zero. Already in 2015, Western Australia has seen four fatalities.
Doug Barclay, regional inspector for the Department of Mines and Petroleum, claims the origin of this unfortunate rise could be the decay of the mining boom in Western Australia and the drying up of production and revenue. Consequently, many experienced miners and managers across the region left for greener pastures, leaving voids now filled by less-experienced employees who are also faced with pressures to cut costs.
Though correlation does not necessarily equal causation, the trend of cost cutting since the mining boom appears to correspond with the rising number of fatalities. Financial pressures, potentially compounded by relatively inexperienced supervisory personnel and managers, may have contributed to a decline in the length, breadth, or scope of safety training programs in recent years. Nicole Rooke of the Western Australia Chamber of Minerals and Energy maintains that this concerning trend should be anomalous, as over the past many years, mining incidents have been generally on the decline—evidenced by the lack of fatalities in 2012, before the upward trend began in 2013. However, Ms. Rooke remarks that the uptick in incidents “reinforces that there’s absolutely no room for complacency” when it comes to maintaining the highest standards of safety and ensuring all employees “go home safe at the end of the day.”
Unfortunately, distractions and pressures appear to be among the common roots of workplace incidents. In this instance, Mr. Barclay asserts, the decline of production and the pressure to cut costs in the industry may cause some miners to be concerned about the security of their jobs and to have misgivings about the efficacy of relatively inexperienced management, and consequently the distraction or pressure can lead to a lack of focus or a lapse in thorough safety awareness. If a potential cause of Western Australia’s recent trend is a dip in the quality of safety training, then the safety training may not have met minimal needs. Plus, if doubt and budgetary constraints pervade this training, then it will much less account for employees’ moods, concerns, awareness, and ability to focus on a particular day. Of course, no safety training can be perfect or anticipate all possible scenarios. And the same is true of people, as people by nature are fallible.
But if safety training and people are inherently flawed, how can a safety program realistically bring workplace incidents to zero? Predictive Safety contends that using data analytics and proactive safety solutions can reduce the number of variables to control and prevent situations that can lead to incidents before they can happen. And yes—Predictive Safety systems can use personal information like moods, fatigue, and ability to focus to help mitigate risk to workers. The solutions that Predictive Safety offers can diminish the lapses in safety awareness that stress, pressures, and distractions can cause and that training may not anticipate, and they can function as additional assurance when the human element in the safety equation is not at its best.
And that is true whether the human element is a front-line employee whose focus has been compromised by concerns about job security, fatigue, or other factors; or if the human element is a member of supervisory or management personnel whose focus has been compromised by financial limitations, relative inexperience, or something else. If Predictive Safety solutions are implemented, it may help alleviate the overall stressors or pressures that personnel may feel in times of uncertainty because they can be confident that the most important thing—their health and safety—is being proactively managed.