April 2019

Creating a world-class safety system

  • By David Bereczky, Health Safety Environment and Quality Manager, Action Drill & Blast

Action Drill & Blast’s industry-leading safety system, ActionSAFE, is the product of collaborative internal development to create a program that would lead the industry in professionalism and safety. Exceeding Australian industry benchmarks for health and safety across our operations was paramount during the design process.

The concept of understanding risk in the workplace, then making commitments and taking action to reduce that risk, is nothing new. What’s challenging, and what’s ultimately going to deliver the best safety performance, is creating something world class – a system that achieves complete employee buy-in.

While safety in mining has certainly come a long way over the past decade, poor attitudes and indifferent approaches still exist. These are roadblocks that need to be cleared if a new standard is to be set. As we all know, when the well-being of workers is prioritised, optimal productivity follows.

In our view, there are four critical components to a world-class safety system.

A culture of participation

For a safety system to succeed, it must be a priority of the management team – its development must be driven by management and experienced safety professionals. Just as importantly, employees must be heavily involved in the process. This is critical if complete buy-in is to be achieved.

Establishing a culture of listening, feedback, participation and good reporting practices from the outset is essential to engaging employees and improving procedures. Crews must understand that reporting hazards and incidents won’t result in blaming, but learning and improving.

Measuring and reviewing performance

Just as the financial health of a business can be measured by the profits it delivers to shareholders, a company can also be assessed for its workplace health and safety by its lead and lag results delivered to stakeholders in relation to key performance indicators. This is the health and safety dividend.

Monitoring the weekly, monthly and yearly results continuously within health and safety enables management to keep tabs on how well or not the company is keeping workers injury and incident free. More important than the lag results are the proactive activities that prevent injury or incidents occurring in the first place.

Health and safety is not a ‘set and forget’ process 

Without performance measurement, it is likely that continual improvement will stall and complacency will set in.

Establish a quality cycle for continuous improvement

A safety system is never finished or complete. It’s a continuous journey that requires constant attention and action.

Developing and implementing a quality cycle establishes a method for continuous improvement. A cycle can be summarised into six steps:

1. Create policy and set objectives

Recruit the right personnel and ensure they understand the health and safety expectations from day one. This is essential to ensure safety values are consistent and aligned across the organisation.

Align safety with clients’ requirements without compromising your own standards. This can be achieved through site-specific risk assessment workshops to facilitate better planning, procedures and site practices.

2. Implement advanced risk management

Drilling operations and the management and use of explosives have inherent risks, some of which are more prevalent than others. Understanding and identifying high risk activities will help determine where extra focus is required.

3. Educate and set responsibilities

As part of the on-boarding process, new employees should take a ‘suitability for job’ analysis, followed by an introduction to the safety system through the safety and training induction process.

Provide a job-specific position description that identifies what the company vision and values are, the position accountabilities and the safety obligations. These will detail expectations such as minimum requirements for personal risk assessments, reporting of hazards and incidents, workplace and mobile plant inspection requirements, safety responsibilities to self and others in the workplace, and fitness for work requirements.

4. Establish scheduled and unscheduled activities

Naturally, the mining environment can present challenges in risk management that have not been identified in the advanced risk management process.

Examples of these include manual handling when mechanical assistance is not available or even everyday routines where complacency can become a hazard and contribute to increased risk.

To combat this type of risk, scheduled and unscheduled risk minimisation activities should be established. Behaviour-based observations, combined with coaching and mentoring, are an opportunity to shift culture into a safe zone.

5. Monitor and measure

Proactively monitor the performance of workplace health and safety through an embedded reporting system and a culture based on open communication. These mechanisms may include:

  • weekly safety teleconferences between off-site management and all project supervision
  • monthly reporting of project KPI statistics that are visible across the company
  • health and safety committee meetings and performance review reports
  • a comprehensive database to manage safety and training input and output requirements.

6. Revitalise

To keep the system current and effective, at least one comprehensive review per year where all key stakeholders participate in the improvement and renewal process should be conducted.

Recognise and reinforce

Recognising safety performance is an important element of a world-class safety system. In-house initiatives that recognise and reinforce good safety practices and exemplify other company values can be extremely beneficial and are an important function for keeping safety front of mind and as part of the continuous improvement process. 

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