Mining Program Area: Health and Safety Management Systems
Risk-based health and safety management systems (HSMS) function as the foundation on which improved safety performance is built. Because every mine’s HSMS varies, focusing on the implementation and evaluation of an entire HSMS is likely not feasible or practical. Operating pragmatically, OMSHR is focusing its research on studying how an HSMS is implemented through everyday workplace practices and activities in order to capture the “how it works” and “what it looks like” of critical HSMS elements and practices. OMSHR’s HSMS research goals are to:: 1) identify the critical HSMS elements and practices most important to injury and illness prevention that generalize across context and over time; 2) identify and develop interventions to help leverage these critical HSMS elements and respective practices; and 3) identify and develop the most effective methods and measurements to help integrate and implement HSMS activities.
Recent Research Efforts
To date, OMSHR has fostered relationships with mining companies and completed formative research efforts to identify and characterize the most critical HSMS elements, the practices most often associated with implementing those elements, and performance measures commonly used to track program progress and effectiveness. These studies are highlighted below.
One research effort engaged (1) executive, strategic level mining representatives and (2) operations, implementation level management currently implementing or maintaining an HSMS aligned with NMA CORESafety, ANSI-Z10, or OHSAS 180001. Eighteen representatives provided their perspectives about what the most fundamental HSMS elements and practices are as well as how they measure the effectiveness of these elements and practices. Study results determined that the elements and practices associated with areas such as Leadership Development; Accountability; Knowledge, Skills and Ability Development; System Coordination; Culture Enhancement; Behavior Optimization; and Risk Management Studies were viewed as key to a risk-based HSMS (Yorio & Willmer, 2015).
Additionally, a separate research effort sought to identify and characterize previously evaluated leading indicators of effective health and safety management systems (Bennet & Foster, 2005). Researchers identified a sample of 24 mining companies as multi-year recipients of the Sentinels of Safety award. Recruitment of a sub sample was based on an interest in analyzing the practices of companies that showed a system, or process of sustained safety performance management. Researchers inferred that these organizations had some sort of established process or system for managing safety performance and the associated leadership practices and behaviors could be informative models for other mine organizations. Results demonstrated that the success of an HSMS often relies on and includes involvement from worksite leaders. These leaders (e.g., senior managers, frontline supervisors) play an integral role to execute the company’s safety commitment and effective workforce involvement. An article (i.e. Rost, Willmer, & Haas, in press) was written to detail leadership characteristics that likely support the safety/health of workers on the job.
Current Research Efforts
The formative work provided valuable data to inform the critical areas in which an HSMS needs to focus efforts in the workplace. However, the implementation and evaluation phases of an HSMS still needs to be answered. Building on the described formative work, OMSHR researchers are now partnering with mining stakeholders to carryout empirical research studies to assess the “how it works” and “what it looks like” regarding HSMS processes and practices. Specifically, OMSHR is focusing on the implementation of leadership and communication practices and how they function as part of a risk prevention system. OMSHR is using recently developed mine technologies such as the NIOSH Helmet-CAM and the Continuous Personal Dust Monitor to study how these technologies can be and are used to manage and encourage the workforce to execute and improve safety performance. Through organizational safety surveys, mine site leadership and worker interviews, focus groups, and observations, OMSHR researchers are working to answer questions such as:
- Which organizational and personal factors are most important for proactive safety performance?
- Why and how they are important?
- How can they be improved through various behavioral interventions?
- How can they be improved through health and safety management systems?
- What and how can HSMS processes and practices be used by the industry and respective leadership to effectively manage and develop the workforce to consistently execute safe/healthy decisions?
- -Including tasks that require the integration and use of mine technology?
- -Including tasks that minimize exposures to respirable dusts?
Results from this empirical research will be used to draft initial HSMS implementation and evaluation tools that inform communication and assessment efforts at different levels of the mining organization. These tools are aimed at providing details of the “how” and “what” of HSMS system implementation and integration in practical, industry applicable examples. Future research studies will evaluate these tools via interventions and attempt to understand and measure the level of change related to practices associated with key HSMS elements (i.e., Leadership Development; Accountability; Knowledge, Skills and Ability Development; System Coordination; Culture Enhancement; Behavior Optimization). OMSHR has positioned current research efforts to empirically study, evaluate these changes via surveillance efforts, and disseminate guidance and best practices on how reductions in incidents, injuries and fatalities are achieved and institutionalized through an HSMS.