Mining Program Area: Health and Safety Management Systems
With increased frequency, organizations worldwide have integrated occupational health and safety management systems (HSMS) into their broader systems of organizational management. The Department of Labor (DOL), through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), continues in the rulemaking process of integrating a risk assessment based HSMS into its oversight of U.S. industries (Federal Register, 2010). Concurrently, the use of a management systems approach for mining health and safety has become a priority topic for mining companies and industry representatives.
Integrating HSMS into standard business and environmental management practices encourages researchers to identify and evaluate (1) the effectiveness of HSMS elements and (2) practices that provide measurable improvement in safety performance. This is necessary to appropriately align organizational resources (personnel, financial, and operational practices) to achieve the greatest reduction in incident rates. Researchers evaluating ways to improve safety performance often fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) evaluating drivers related to people (senior management, employee involvement), (2) evaluating managed activities (committing resources to activities that are believed to help maintain safety), and (3) evaluating behavior and values around safety practices/beliefs.
The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research's (OMSHR) overall research approach starts by systematically defining U.S. mining HSMS elements and practices. This will increase understanding of characteristics unique to the HSMS approach in mining, specifically how HSMS elements and practices can be quantified in day-to-day mining operations for measurement and tracking. In addition, defining these characteristics in realistic mine safety experiences and practices will contribute to an analytical model for evaluating the interactive effects of HSMS elements and practices and their influence on mining injury and incident rates.
Because of the increased emphasis on a systems approach to mine safety and health management, it is increasingly necessary to understand optimum ways to design such a system. The existing consensus standards that provide health and safety management system details do so in a general and abstract fashion. The key driver of OMSHR’s research in this area is to clarify the HSMS and make it real for the mining industry. A five-year project starting in Fiscal Year 2013 will work to meet this expectation.
Health and safety management systems, often aligned with consensus standards such as OHSAS 18001 and ANSI-Z10:2012, include elements associated with planning, implementation and operation, proactive and reactive checking and corrective action, management commitment, and employee involvement. These elements are linked across strategic thinking toward improving safety performance as well as during implementation, measurement, and evaluation of safety practices. As such, each requires significant organizational resources. All organizations work with limited resources, so it is important for mine companies to understand the most critical elements within the system and the types of configurations that have the greatest associated impact on organization safety performance levels. To address this need, this research will answer two primary questions: (1) What do safety management systems (as defined through the lens of current consensus standards and potential enforcement initiatives) look like in the mining industry? (2) What is the optimal configuration of safety management system elements necessary for efficient organizational level safety performance?
Answers to these questions only reside in a rich research program consisting of in-depth qualitative research techniques accompanied by sophisticated quantitative methods.