Staff retention – the human cost

Regardless of what you’re mining, people are a business’ most precious asset. Nivek Industries is working to help businesses protect their most precious assets to keep fitters safer for longer, extend their careers and in turn, their bottom line.

Although the stats vary, the great majority of studies estimate the cost of re-hiring to be six to nine months of that person’s wage.

Retaining employees that build long-term careers uninterrupted by injuries is an enormous long-term financial benefit to companies. The benefits don’t stop at staff retention savings though, it seems that creating long-term teams, giving employees feelings of inclusion, support and positive workplace morale in fact improve efficiency, and productivity and that in turn flows into profits.

Nivek Industries can help play a role in protecting workers from physical injuries and exhaustion, with a suite of products designed to take some of the risk, weight and danger out of everyday mechanical maintenance, helping workers to feel less exhausted and more motivated to complete tasks safely and efficiently.

To gain a better understanding of the part TED and other products play in the workplace and fitters’ lives, the company surveyed workers within the fitting industry, who identified a supportive working environment as their top priority when reviewing their current jobs or seeking new positions.

Nivek’s survey asked fitters and other workers within industry to rank 10 priorities in order of importance to them when reflecting on their role in fitting or when seeking a new role.
Out of a possible total score of 10, Nivek’s clients gave a supportive working environment a survey-high of eight points.

Working for a company committed to health and safety scored 6.71, narrowly edging out a positive workplace culture with 6.67. A work environment that protects physical health scored 6.57, further reiterating the importance fitters put on a safe and positive work culture.

More traditional employee priorities, such as a good work/life balance (5.38) and pay (4.78), were lower on the scale and flexibility bottomed out on the survey with a score of just three.

With Nivek Industries helping fitters to feel less exhausted, more motivated and safer to complete their tasks without injury, the company strives to deliver on these priorities, with the introduction of TED, the new Lift Assist-40, and the Lift Assist (LA) stand to more sites leading the way.

Unfortunately, people working as fitters often experience a short work life due to how hard the work is on their bodies, with the role of a fitter being described as “physically and socially demanding” by the Australian Government Job Outlook.

Job Outlook recognised that working as a fitter in the mining industry as extremely practical, at times unstructured work and completing tasks in loud and/or uncomfortable environments.

With many workers falling victim to injuries as a result of hard, physical work, fitters are often forced to move into different roles at a younger age than in other mining professions.

Nivek Industries strives to create a safer working environment for fitters so they can stay in their roles for the long-term without experiencing the wear and tear on their bodies that many have succumbed to in the past.

The company achieves this with TED, which takes the weight out of belly plate removal and replacement, while removing fitters from the dangerous crush zone and the new Lift Assist range, taking the weight out of tooling.

Introducing TED to workshops has helped employers ranging from Tier 1 miners to small workshops and mobile contractors look after their employees as they spend their days working in this risky yet rewarding role.

Mick, who works on a contract-basis for mines across the Hunter Valley region, is one worker who has experienced the benefits of TED as a fitter.

“When you’re working on dozers without TED, you’re lifting heavy components on everything,” Mick tells Safe to Work. “You go home and you’re stuffed from it, and then you go back and have to do it again the next day.

“TED is just so much of an easier way and you can work more efficiently when you’re not sore and exhausted even the next day, it saves so much time, it’s really great.”

In addition to feeling better physically, Mick says being able to come to work refreshed each day helps with motivation, boosting morale and mental health at site.

“I work at some pits that have TEDs and some that don’t, and you can really tell the difference,” he says. “People aren’t as motivated and just don’t want to do some of the tough jobs and that’s when they start cutting corners.

“When you’re at a pit that doesn’t have one, you think that TEDs are such a reward and I’m stoked when I get back at a pit that has one.”

Nigel, a leading hand for a contractor that represents Tier 1 mining companies, also says the introduction of TED has made fitters’ jobs safer and less strenuous.

As a result, Nigel has noticed a positive working culture among fitters in his role and has noticed that employees are leaving work at the end of the day feeling less fatigued now TED is in place across work sites.

“As a fitter we’re often working on concrete or rough outside surfaces, which can be physical and tiring,” Thompson says.

“We are always searching for new tooling to improve safety and efficiency of tasks. TED is excellent, it drives itself way better than previous belly plate lifters and it does not get bogged or spin on the spot.”

These positive differences from using TED aren’t just limited to the fitters’ health and wellbeing though, as Tradecore Industries task coordinator Murray Considine has noticed.

According to Considine, using TED to complete fitting jobs allows Tradecore’s employees to provide a superior service to its competitors, as workers are able to get the job done more efficiently and safely.

“Having TED shows our employees that we take the safety of our employees very seriously, it provides the confidence to undertake hazardous tasks safely,” Considine explains.

“TED eliminates a lot of manual handling in our day-to-day tasks as it does the heavy lifting for us. Some attachments also remove a lot of the hand injury risks involved with changing out certain components on earthmoving equipment.

“TED has come a long way from just being a belly guard jack and the attachments add so much more to the utilisation of this asset within our business.

“Our people are more efficient and self-supporting when carrying out repairs and maintenance to our client’s machines.”

BHP has also embraced the safety and health gains of TED and the LA system, which is in line with their ideals of looking after their workforce and benefitting from extended years of experience.

BHP currently has 28 TEDs working across 18 Australian operations, and is now teaching its next generation of fitters ‘best practice’ using the machine and the Lift Assist system in the Future Fit Academies in Western Australia and Queensland.

With equipment such as TED, and the LA-40 tooling manipulator arm lessening the impact hard labour on employees’ bodies each day, Nivek Industries is leading the way in providing the right tools for the job, making fitting a more long-term and attractive role within the mining industry.

This article also appears in the July edition of Safe to Work.

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