Mining Project: Defining Risk Perception and Tolerance Within a Decision Science Framework
To identify what situations sand, stone, and gravel mine workers find risky and how risk perception and risk tolerance influence the decisions they make in the face of risk or danger.
The goal of this pilot project was to identify worksite hazards that are critical to sand, stone, and gravel (SSG) mine work and to understand risk from the SSG mine worker’s perspective.
Background and Methodology
Mining involves a variety of components including heavy machinery, complex equipment, and diverse worker activities in a dynamic, challenging environment. To work safely, miners must be able to identify work place hazards, know and understand the risks associated with these hazards, and then make the decision to safely mitigate the hazard. Because risk is inherent in the work that SSG mine workers perform and is also a critical factor in the decisionmaking process, the purpose of this pilot project was to identify what situations SSG mine workers find risky and how risk perception and risk tolerance influence the decisions they make in the face of risk or danger.
Risk assessments have been conducted at mine sites in the past. These assessment outcomes typically reflect the thoughts and opinions of mine management and mine safety personnel as well as the mine worker. This project's researchers refer to this as a top-down approach because the outcome is typically used by mine management and safety personnel to evaluate operating procedures and determine which controls should be put into place to decrease or eliminate identified risk.
However, there has been little research to identify what situations SSG mine workers find risky and how risk perception and risk tolerance influence the decisions mine workers make in the face of risk or danger. In this study, mine workers at several SSG mine sites were asked to participate in one-on-on interviews or a focus group. Using qualitative data collection methods, researchers focused on the organizational, environmental, situational, and human factors that influence risk perception and tolerance and their effect on decisionmaking. By using a bottom-up approach, researchers were able to more accurately assess SSG mine workers’ perceptions of risky job tasks and what factors influence the decisions they make while performing these tasks.
The results of this study indicated that:
- critical hazards depend on the job the mine worker typically performs,
- SSG mine workers believe that experience can both positively and negatively impact hazard recognition ability, and
- the frequency with which tasks are performed affects hazard recognition ability perceived risk.
Based on these findings, a long-term research project was approved beginning on 10/01/2014. This new project will investigate how cognitive processes - in this case, visual search and attention and the perception of risk - influence hazard recognition. Information gained from the pilot project was used to guide the selection of hazards that will be included in materials presented to participants during a laboratory study. This information will also be used to guide the development of training materials created to enhance hazard recognition abilities for the SSG mining industry.
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