October 2017

National Safe Work Month: building safety culture and awareness

  • By Geoff Sharrock HonFAusIMM(CP), Interim Chair, AusIMM Health and Safety Society

By sharing safety knowledge and experience, professionals in the resources sector can have a positive impact on the safety culture of their own workplaces

October is National Safe Work Month and Safe Work Australia has launched a national campaign to improve public awareness of work safety and promote the development of strong safety culture in workplaces across all industries (Safe Work Australia, 2017). The theme for the campaign is ‘sharing safety knowledge and experience benefits everyone’, and there are a number of initiatives relevant to professionals working in the mining and resources sector.

Injury and illness amongst professionals cost the Australian economy $7.9 billion in 2012-13. Of this cost, it is estimated that 77 per cent is borne by the individuals experiencing injury and illness (Safe Work Australia, 2017).

It is often individuals who can have the biggest influence on improving safety performance. Building a culture where all individuals are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment is not about shifting responsibility away from the company, but rather sharing the ownership of safe practice to improve outcomes.

Over the period 2003-2015, the mining industry experienced an average of 8.9 worker fatalities each year, with ten in 2015. This figure represents five per cent of all worker fatalities in Australia in 2015 (Safe Work Australia, 2017). There were also 2105 accepted claims for serious injury or illness amongst mining industry workers in 2014-15 (Safe Work Australia, 2017).

The fragmentation of regulation of safety across state governments has been argued to be detrimental to the development of a cohesive, consistent safety culture in the resources industry. Early work in development of the National Mine Safety Framework was promising, but there have been some concerns expressed that more has not been done to move toward a uniform system of regulation of mine safety (Atkins et al, 2017).

While the disharmony of regulation and the incidence of injury, illness and death in the mining industry is concerning, there has certainly been a strong improvement in safety performance in recent times. In the period 2003-2015, the rate of fatalities decreased 65 per cent from 12.4 per 100 000 workers in 2003 to 4.4 per 100 000 in 2015 (Safe Work Australia, 2017). This decrease is likely primarily attributable to a stronger focus on health and safety across all aspects of industry practice. Many major mining companies are actively pursuing a target of zero harm, accompanied by an increase in time and resources allocated to building a safety culture within mining businesses.

The National Safe Work Month campaign seeks to harness the health and safety culture that is well-developed within the mining industry and encourage workplaces to find new ways to bring safety to the forefront of their activities during October. As part of the campaign, Safe Work Australia has prepared flyers and other materials for businesses to use on their websites, social media and in the workplace (see here). The campaign encourages businesses to get involved by running a safety initiative during October, and tips and ideas can be found on their website at www.safeworkmonth.swa.gov.au. There is also a ‘Workplace Reward’ competition running from 2 October to 6 November, where workplaces that run a safety initiative can submit their details online for a chance to win up to $5000 (Safe Work Australia, 2017).

In an industry where safety risks and hazards are real, and concerted effort has been made to develop an intrinsic health and safety culture, it important to continually seek new opportunities to bring safety in the workplace into focus. With such a strong focus on improvement of worker health and safety, mining and related businesses are well placed to participate in National Safe Work Month and ensure that safety remains a core value in all operations.

Join the AusIMM Health and Safety Society

Staying up to date on health and safety topics is essential to all professionals working in the resources sector. AusIMM strongly encourages all members to join the AusIMM Health and Safety Society to receive news and resources relevant to this important field.

To join the AusIMM Health and Safety Society, visit the Members’ Area of the AusIMM website and update your ‘Areas of Interest’ to include Health and Safety by ticking the appropriate box. Being part of the society means you will receive newsletters and event and learning opportunities relevant to all aspects of health and safety in the resources sector.

References

Atkins A, Morris T, Jones O and Bell S, 2017. Progress of harmonisation of Workplace Health and Safety laws for Australian mining, The AusIMM Bulletin [online]. Available from www.ausimmbulletin.com/feature/ progress-harmonisation-workplace-health-safety-laws-australian-mining.

Safe Work Australia, 2017. Safe work Australia homepage [online]. Available from www. safeworkaustralia.gov.au.

 

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