The Australian Mining Industry faces some interesting challenges as we head into a new year. Changes to fiscal and government policy have been occurring for years, but their volume, unpredictability and associated costs are on the rise. Commodity price volatility is greater than ever, while issues around sustainability, the environment and human rights have escalated into more frequent episodes of community activism and social unrest.
But there is one issue that mining companies in Australia need to pay greater attention to – the safety of their employees and contractors in the workplace, both above and below the ground. Despite having very tough OH&S laws, Australia ranks just seventh globally for lowest workplace fatalities. This is in comparison with the UK; (the best-performing nation) which saw only 562 incidents per 100,000 people, with Australia sitting at 1,416 per 100,000. If Australia reached similar levels to the UK then it is estimated that it could save almost $34 billion.
For mining companies, the challenge of keeping people safe is ongoing as they face the constant influx of new employees and contractors on site – many of whom can be employed from outside the mining sector – meaning that Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) has become an even more ubiquitous topic for the industry. This requires company management to spend more time and resources adhering to legislation to ensure company wide compliance across such areas as workplace safety, policy and procedures.
In mining, just like any other industry, think about safety the same way you would think about maintenance planning, shutdowns or any other management issue. Plan for it, invest in it, manage it and regulate it. Not only will you prevent injuries, you will also help your bottom line. A safe workplace is always the most efficient. Think about the morale of your staff if a fatality was to occur in your workplace and the cost of down time – not to mention the harm to your business reputation.
But how do you get this information to people on the ground? The typical mining employee does not sit behind a desk with a computer, and in most cases, training and updates are done manually in seminars prior to entering sites. In addition to this, many of the large mining companies have to keep all of their employees informed across multiple sites.
But there is another way, the role of technology can help – and the smart mining companies are starting to realise this and make use of it.
The first consideration is to make it as easy as possible for those using it i.e. the employees. Handing out several hundred laptops to the workforce is neither practical nor cost-effective. A simple and far more cost effective solution is to look at the use of touchscreen kiosk technology, similar to those you see at an airport terminal for printing out your boarding pass. It helps employees to access important company information and knowledge instantly, without having to sit through hours of training seminars.
But it’s how they access that information that’s equally as important too. Using intuitive web applications (like those on your smartphone) allows mining companies to deliver the latest and most critical information to its employees, while also gathering important data themselves.
These web applications then connect to company data and can provide any host of benefits, such as:
The ability to validate documentation in a matter of seconds provides mining companies with a real benefit not only in terms of time saved, but also a vital safety component too. Employees and contractors need to know that the piece of machinery they’re working on is safe, or whether there are updates required. Using technology can help with this dramatically, helping the mining companies to meet their compliance and safety requirements, and in turn provide a better overall and safer working environment for employees.
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