Despite technology’s part in improving mine safety, Bravus Mining & Resources and Glencore implement workforce management strategies that bring their safety targets into reality.
Safety is a core modus operandi for Australian mining operations.
Between 2015 and 2017, Safe Work Australia reported 2557 claims for serious worker’s compensation, with most of these pertaining to muscular stress, trips, slips and falls, as well as being hit by moving objects.
In Western Australia, lost time injuries in mining increased by four to 429 during 2019-2020 compared with the previous year.
With pressure on mining companies to improve safety, their performance in this area is a leading indicator of a company’s operational success.
Mining companies have even developed and integrated their safety plan long before the mines start producing.
A modern plan will emphasise the use of technology, but also focus on cultivating an individual’s approach to safety.
Bravus Mining and Resources’ executive team, for example, is actively involved in driving this priority at the Carmichael coal and rail project in Queensland ahead of its first production.
With a lead by example approach, Bravus’ executive team members are expected to interact with their reporting lines regularly.
This isn’t limited to structured audits and inspections, but also through less formal interactions that “drive home the safety priority message at a human level.”
With a focus on quality, and not just the quantity of interactions, Bravus has introduced a system of interactions that makes safety personal across its activities.
“The care and focus shown by all our leaders in these interactions serves both as an example and also an encouragement for the frontline team to actively engage with each other around safety,” a Bravus spokesperson tells Safe to Work.
Bravus supports this workforce management by leveraging today’s technology to drive higher quality reporting and compliance across the Carmichael project.
The company has dedicated its safety focus during project construction to develop robust and fit-for-purpose safety systems.
This is intended to support a positive safety culture as the company shifts from mine developer into producer.
“We are driving risk prioritised design across the project and have developed a monitoring regime to help track safety indicators and outcomes across the wide number of combined work fronts on the project,” the company spokesperson says.
Bravus has introduced the Rsured platform – a centralised online tool that manages employee and contractor documents, certification and authorisation to work, risks, safety statistics and reporting and online learning.
Company personnel can access the platform on tablet devices in remote locations or those without data coverage.
Bravus also plans to continue to strengthen its operational safety by recruiting additional OH&S professionals.
At the time of writing, the company employs 14 staff across the Carmichael mine and rail project in the safety area. This doesn’t include the safety personnel employed by its contracting partners.
Bravus expects to offer safety roles that support the array of skills the company will require in a changing and challenging environment.
With preference for local hires in the Townsville and Rockhampton areas, Bravus considers the experience and expertise a candidate can bring to the company.
“Important skills include a high level of understanding of current legislative safety requirements, the ability to communicate safety and engage with a wide range of workers throughout the organisation, a desire to continually improve safety and positively challenge previously accepted practice and standards, be flexible to work and influence safety across a number of varying work fronts,” the company spokesperson continues.
Glencore, a company with a portfolio of mature operations in Australian and internationally, places workforce management as the key ingredient to its safety approach.
The approach, called SafeWork, was first initiated by Glencore’s Australian coal business and is now widely implemented across its global operations.
Under this approach, Glencore trains its employees around hazard identification, management and mitigation.
It focusses on changing employee attitudes towards safety and thereby instigating a long-term change.
“SafeWork gives everyone in our business the tools and knowledge to perform their tasks safely by implementing life-saving behaviours and protocols developed to target known hazards,” the company states.
Safety progress is then tracked, with high potential risk incidents (HPRIs) being shared every week to allow a better understanding of how effective the company’s critical controls are.
Glencore’s emphasis of reporting and recording HPRIs has been vital to its progress in safety management, identifying trends as they rise, taking corrective action and preventing the same incidents from repeating themselves.
For example, the company reveals in its sustainability report that more than half (54 per cent) of its HPRIs in 2019 involved mobile equipment interactions with personnel, light vehicles and heavy equipment.
Using awareness and warning technology, Glencore proceeded to combat the issue of driver fatigue at its operations, including in Australia.
The technology has proven to significantly slash the amount of micro-sleep incidents, helping the company to reduce them by as much as 85 per cent at the Calenturitas thermal coal mine in Colombia.
“We have in excess of a hundred operations that have run for many years without fatalities. We know that every person can go home safely. So, our intention and what we will achieve is an environment where everybody does go home safely,” Glencore head of industrial assets Peter Freyberg says.
Knowing the possible level of safety that a mining company can achieve, the industry stands hopeful for continued and lasting change via a serious investment in its workforce, coupled with appropriate use of technology.
This methodology reflects the approach required for an industry that drives Australia’s economic prosperity more than any other.
This article also appears in the March-April issue of Safe to Work.