14/12/2004 - 21:00

Boom warning on mine safety

14/12/2004 - 21:00

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Boom warning on mine safety

TANIA Mol says she developed a passion for safety in the mining industry after a friend had his wrists crushed by an eight-tonne bulldozer at a Pilbara iron ore mine almost 10 years ago.

At the time Ms Mol was working in the mining industry at Newman.

Now a human resource management consultant and author of a manage-ment manual, which ex-plores the conflict betw-een safety and production, she believes caution is needed more than ever.

“With the recent economic upturn sparking greater demand for WA’s resources there were strong incentives for producers to maximise production,” Ms Mol told WA Business News. “There are great opportunities for profit-taking in the resources sector due to high commodity prices and strong demand.”

But she warned of the potentially negative consequences for worker safety and sustainable supply.

Ms Mol said worker safety could be compromised in the mining industry and other hazardous industries, particularly during boom periods, because of the conflict between production and safety.

Her comments follow the recent Ritter report into BHP Billiton’s occupational health and safety procedures commissioned by the State Government following the deaths of three BHPB employees in separate incidents at its iron ore operations midway through the year.

BHPB’s $3 billion Boodarie direct iron reduction plant has been on care and maintenance since then.

As well as being critical of the company’s industrial relations policies, which it said had compromised workplace safety, the Ritter report also highlighted the potential for conflict between safety and productivity, particularly when there is a drive to increase production and reduce times.

“The inquiry considers that a desire for ‘success’ measured in terms of production, output and ultimately profitability is an ever-present factor which can impact on health and safety,” the report says.

Ms Mol said there were a number of reasons why safety could take a back seat to production.

“Safety is seen as a cost and in a cost-reduction environment safety is an area that can suffer,” she said. “It is also hard to quantify safety benefit in dollar terms.”

 

SAFETY TIPS

  • Maintenance: Incentives to cut back on maintenance to maximise production can threaten worker safety and cause costly breakdowns.
  • Planning: Plans to rapidly expand production by developing new facilities and modifying existing systems can lead to design and construction faults. 
  • Training: To meet production demands, companies need a bigger workforce. However, with labour shortages, some workers have limited experience in high-risk industries. 
  • Monitor: Maintain awareness even if a ‘safety first’ policy is in place, it doesn’t mean that safety is being put ahead of production at the operational level. 

Source: Tania Mol, Align Strategic Management Services

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