by Jan Hollenbach
It's sad that, yet again, the issue of incidents, accidents and fatalities in the industry have come to the fore. Many of the responses to these dilemmas have been along the lines of "we must maintain or increase our safety standards at the operation beyond what the OSH act requires". Should we rather not upskill or empower our employees who're involved in our operations? Having considered some of the safety training materials in many organisations – as the HR manager you should be considering this when you select safety courses for your staff - it's made me ponder on what kind of PPE* will save a limb or a part of the body if an accident occurs.
A safety glove will protect your employees' fingers and hands but an accident can result in them losing the hand wearing a glove or their feet wearing safety boots. They shouldn't just wear protective clothing to be safe – their behaviour needs to be safe too!
The brain is the most important part of the body in any and all safety-related matters. It's the brain that determines an individual's mindset: if an employee doesn't have the correct mindset towards safety, none of the PPE will protect him - and in fact that worker is a serious threat to all his fellow employees.
Safety policies, procedures and signage are as effective as the mindset of the individual that gets exposed to these. Would it be unfair to compare it with a 60 km/h or 120 km/h sign next to the road?
Incidents and accidents occur because people are complacent about health and safety
It's impossible to do safety training as many times as is needed for employees not to become complacent. Reminders and signage can help to this end but the real difference will only be achieved if an individual has a safety-oriented mindset.
In the mining industry, miners need to know that the most important product that needs to come to the surface at the end of the shift is them and the other miners.
Maybe one of the solutions for a changed mindset lies in a series of conversations about values, contribution, engagement, respect and, yes, safety as well.
The nature of the relationship that the employee has with the organisation and, importantly, with his or her supervisor is of primary importance in becoming complacent. We all know that for any relationship to survive and last, a lot of effort is required. Many couples will agree – the more effort the better the relationship. Some considerations for a relationship with a positive mindset include regular – or even daily - communication, caring, trust and engagement.
The way you handle your relationships will determine the response you receive from those you have a relationship with. When last did you have a conversation? Do you know how to have REAL conversations?
Let's get safety back where it belongs (and stop doing only what the OSH act says you must do): in the minds and behaviours of people.
* - PPE refers to 'personal protective equipment'.
This article first appeared on HR Pulse.