Mining Program Strategic Plan, 2019-2023 - Overarching Research Approaches
Certain activities span all strategic and intermediate goals and serve as an integral part of every research endeavor to ensure effective product design and implementation. These approaches may include organizational, physical, and/or psychological considerations when assessing risk and designing improvements for equipment, technologies, and processes—while placing the limitations and capabilities of the worker as the focal point for how products should be designed, tested, and implemented successfully.
We also consider early-on the relevant processes for product interpretation and dissemination. We require dissemination plans at the initiation of every project, as well as yearly updates, which are closely tied to the project’s intermediate goals. Because these overarching approaches constitute an integral part of all research efforts, they are not included as specific strategic goals. However, they are vital to the overall design, implementation, acceptance, and success of our research and product development and to all three Mining Program strategic goals. Specifically, these overarching approaches fall into five categories: human factors, human-centered design, health communications, surveillance and statistics, and training solutions.
Human factor considerations include health and safety management systems (HSMS), which are institution-wide approaches to managing and improving health and safety. The Mining Program recognizes the advantages of providing solutions and practices that can be integrated within an HSMS to provide direction to individual research projects and make their solutions HSMS-compatible. Moreover, the Program investigates the factors that contribute to HSMS effectiveness and communicates these factors in the form of recommendations to HSMS implementers in the mining industry.
Successful engineering solutions need to accommodate the capabilities and limitations of their human operators. To meet these criteria, the Program applies human-centered design approaches across all projects that develop and design human-machine-environment system interactions (e.g., situational awareness project). This involves assessment of the entire system and how the human workers will interact with that system. We identify potential health and safety issues during the development process and resolve these issues during iterative design and testing phases.
The Mining Program includes a strong health communications function that ensures impact by communicating the program’s solutions to the stakeholders who are in the best position to improve mine worker health and safety. Purposeful communications of products and scientific results relevant to the mining workforce are necessary to reducing injuries and illnesses. The health communications staff initially engages with projects at the proposal and planning stages to ensure that a detailed dissemination plan is in place, performs an audience analysis, then helps to execute that plan during the project’s lifetime, with specific communication products targeting audiences who can take effective safety and health action. We execute and evaluate the dissemination plan through targeted communications, including publications, exhibits, videos, social media, software, and web content—choosing the best mix of communication tools to serve our stakeholders and their health and safety needs.
The Mining Program’s surveillance and statistics staff gather analyzable data files and summary statistics, economic analyses, production statistics, and MSHA data on accident, injuries, and illnesses specific to the mining industry. We perform surveillance analyses to identify the sectors, tasks, machinery and equipment, activities, contaminants, and other factors that are responsible for the greatest risk of injury and illness in order to target our research activities most efficiently. We undertake impact analyses based on injury and illness surveillance data from the mining and regulatory industry in order to determine the effectiveness of our activities in relation to each strategic and intermediate goal. As part of the dissemination plan, we also review products that involve statistics and apply proven statistical analysis techniques to ensure their quality and usability by stakeholders.
We integrate a training function across the Mining Program to identify solutions that lend themselves to training and are needed to achieve specific health and safety goals. Our training staff works across research projects to identify areas where miners will need training to accommodate new technologies and to implement new advances in health and safety knowledge, skills, and abilities. First, we perform a training analysis to identify whether there is a training component to a successful intervention; then, if a training component is needed, we develop and evaluate that intervention, which could range from instructional manuals to toolbox talks to simulations that can be performed in a safe environment. Training solutions are packaged alongside the Program’s engineering solutions or can serve as standalone packages that demonstrate effective training approaches and techniques. Opportunities often exist to translate or transfer this knowledge to other industries such as construction and oil and gas extraction.