When work is risky and consequences are high; the importance of safety inductions for sub-contractors in mining
Safe Work Australia estimates that the overall cost of work-related injury and disease to the Australian economy totals $61.8bn per year – about 4.1% of GDP. They highlight that the mining industry has made significant improvements in health and safety over the last decade, “reducing the incidence rates of both fatalities and serious injuries”. However, mining still has the third highest fatality rate of any industry in Australia, with an average of nine workers dying each year and a 51% increase in the number of serious injury/disease claims between 2000-01 and 2013-14 (the most recent data available).
In March 2020, the Financial Times headline “Australia mine safety crisis spurs workforce debate; rise in deaths follows steep job cuts and contract-worker push” highlighted a key trend. Even in Australia – one of the world’s best regulated resources jurisdictions – “deep cost-cutting” has led to accusations of the prioritisation of production over safety, after a “shift towards greater casualisation of the workforce. The end of the mining boom acted as a trigger for the industry to replace full-time staff with contractors and labour hire.”
As of August 2020, the mining industry employs approximately 247,300 people (ABS), accounting for 2% of the total Australian workforce. Employment in the sector is projected to grow a further 6.2% in the five years to May 2024.
Analysis by the Financial Times (FT) shows that between 2013 and 2018 the top five global miners saw their combined global workforce fall more than a third, while the proportion of contract workers increased; for example, c.60% of BHP’s global workforce were contractors at the end of 2018, up a third from just 40% in 2002.
The FT quoted a recent Queensland government review of serious accidents between 2000 and 2019 that also warned over the influx of subcontractors; noting that “contractors and casual workers were involved in 64% of serious accidents at coal mines in the state from 2018-19. A year earlier the figure was 67%.”
Whilst workplace health and safety remains a clear priority for heavy industry, the casualisation of the employee pool and ever-growing numbers of contractors throws up distinct challenges around the induction and training of such team members.
When work is risky and consequences are high, inductions, learning and development plays a crucial role in training workers to be both safe and effective employees. Industries such as mining carry a high level of risk – both physical and financial – and effective inductions are a powerful way to mitigate that risk from the outset.
Inductions and training are likely to be particularly important in certain circumstances. For instance, when:
New people join your business as employees, contractors or interns
Employees change jobs within the organisation and take on a less familiar role
Known risks increase, perhaps because of a greater pace or volume of work
A new risk arises, such as when unfamiliar equipment is purchased or a new system is implemented.
In their research “Behind Subcontractor Risk: A Multiple Case Study Analysis of Mining and Natural Resources Fatalities”, published in Safety 2020, Valluru, Rae and Dekker of Griffith University note that “subcontractors have always been linked to higher risk by the industry and academia.” They identified four core driving themes of heightened subcontractor risk in the mining and resources sector:
Institutional safety mechanisms do not cope with the variability introduced by subcontractors
Expertise in work does not translate to expertise in safety
Communication does not flow to the subcontractors from the layers above
Safety work is viewed differently by subcontractor staff when compared with principal operators.
LAAMP addresses all four of these themes by offering a solution to modernise learning delivery, mitigate risk and drive organisational performance. Our solutions are simple to implement but can make a big difference to your people and organisation- quickly and affordably.
Considering the themes Valluru et al. identified and how our LAAMP solution can benefit your business:
1. Institutional safety mechanisms do not cope with the variability introduced by subcontractors
LAAMP removes variability. By using cutting-edge, rich media digital evidence technology to track, record and analyse data gathered during inductions, LAAMP assesses and acknowledges existing safety training. LAAMP assesses existing knowledge and past training to identify overlaps and avoid dull, time-consuming and expensive unnecessary duplication – while ensuring zero variability. Your team can be safer and commercially productive more quickly and effectively.
2. Expertise in work does not translate to expertise in safety
Today’s mining industry is dynamic and constantly changing, with staff operating in sophisticated, complex environments. LAAMP’s assessment-focussed inductions are tailored and relevant. Safety expertise is actively assessed, with results rigorously verified (by facial recognition) and analysed (with real time-reporting and analytics). Compliance governance is assured as all evidence is captured and stored on the cloud-based LAAMP platform – forever. Expertise in safety is proven and auditable.
3. Communication does not flow to the subcontractors from the layers above
LAAMP is in the business of anywhere. Communication with users is seamless. Cloud-based programmes can be completed anywhere, at any time, on any device; employees get tailored information and training – and get to work sooner by completing inductions in their own time, before they start work. LAAMP’s user-driven focus removes heavy centralised administration, making core messaging, training, approvals and reporting simple and flexible. Consistent and timely communications drive best practice, build corporate loyalty and save time and money.
4. Safety work is viewed differently by subcontractor staff when compared with principal operators.
By making our immersive virtual inductions relevant, flexible, innovative and fun, all employees (regardless of employment status or role) feel valued and engaged, immediately. At a company level, safety orientation and training can help businesses meet regulatory compliance obligations, demonstrating due diligence and effective governance. It contributes to building a holistic and consistent culture of safety within the working environment, which not only mitigates the employee risk but also has a positive impact on consistent attitudes towards broader workplace safety. Everyone is inducted by LAAMP. Everyone is trained and assessed regularly and engagement is high. The groundhog days of dull, generic, classroom-based learning are gone. LAAMP’s design-centric, intuitive interface is simple to use on all devices and caters to the entire workforce, however dispersed – whether office-based or in the field. Boundaries between workforce groups are blurred, employees are empowered and a safety focus prevails.
We’d love to share our passion for innovative inductions and address any questions you may have around LAAMP; please contact us if we can help.
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