The National Mining Chronicle asked rerisk® CEO, Jaqueline Outram to provide an Opinion Piece for their October 2016 Safety Month Issue. This is what she had to say.
How We Lost the Front Line and How to Get Them Back
Why is it employers in the resources industry are spending more than $20,000 per person per annum to prevent injuries, yet many of our front line people feel alienated from the safety process? In short, we’re good at developing safety procedures but we miss the mark when it comes to embedding those procedures at the front line. What are we missing? A couple of things, both of which are more easily solved than we imagined.
First, we’ve convinced ourselves that the more we spend on safety, the safer our people will be. In fact, the opposite is often true. For example, to embed our safety procedures, we ask the front line to complete a plethora of paper templates (such as Take 5s, JSAs, Permits and Equipment Pre-Starts). It’s a costly exercise and works to a certain extent. But when the templates are complicated and time-consuming, they alienate the front line from the safety process and force inspectors to become paperwork auditors. Inspectors are far more effective when they are coaches and mentors.
Second, as our competitive differences narrowed, we increasingly considered our paper templates to be a core competitive advantage. So each resources entity now develops and maintains its own ‘unique’ set of templates and incurs extraordinary costs training their front line people (including on-site suppliers) to use the templates. Whilst everyone must be aware of the site-specific risks, requiring on-site suppliers to train on each entity’s set of templates is insanity. Because each set of templates is effectively the same. Indeed, any two best practice templates should be identical. Of course, our front line people have known this for years – because they’re the ones demoralised by repetitive template training. And they also realise that if each entity digitises its templates on its own unique digital platform they’ll be subjected to even more repetitive training.
Imagine the potential for confusion (even chaos) if on-site suppliers must not only use a different set of safety templates each day, they must also use a different digital platform.
Every dollar spent on ineffective safety systems is a dollar not spent on effective systems. And worse, the negative impact on front line morale of too many systems muffles even the most positive safety messages.
All of this is solvable. Through industry collaboration, we can agree one set of best practice safety templates and deliver them to our front lines on an industry benchmark digital platform. The savings generated across the industry will amount to billions and our front lines will be safer and happier for it.
Regardless of the imagined hurdles, we must achieve this. No excuses. We owe it to both our front line people and our shareholders. So do it. Pick up the phone. Call your suppliers, your competitors and your clients. Start a conversation around one set of best practice safety templates delivered on an industry benchmark digital platform. In the least, your front line will love you for it.