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A sociotechnical approach to the unintended consequences of technical design in mining.

Vaught-C; Wiehagen-WJ; Steiner-LJ; Cornelius-KM; Turin-FC; Mallett-LG; Samaarco-JJ; Mowrey-GL; Peters-RH
28th International Conference of Safety in Mines Research Institutes, Sinaia, Romania, June 7-11, 1999. Pterosani, Romania: National Institute for Mining Safety and Explosion Proof Protection, 1999 Jun; 2:687-697
There are numerous emerging technologies within the mining industry. Some of these new technologies are being developed in response to ever more stringent health, safety and environmental regulations. Most are intended to enhance a company's competitive position in a challenging and evolving regulatory environment. The performance of these technologies, if it is assessed at all, will probably be evaluated using some variation of benchmarking (Matters and Evans, 1998). For instance, in the simplest type of benchmarking (internal), a mine might compare production figures and costs for a section trying continuous haulage with those from a section using shuttle cars. Or, having embarked upon a program featuring new personal protective equipment, mine management might track lost time injuries or illnesses compared to industry leaders (functional). Even well-done benchmarking does not guarantee the sort of improvements management might expect. Benchmarking offers comparison measures, and it can help guide organizational change only if the measures are relevant and appropriate. Organizational performance actually depends on a host of technical and social factors such as: (1) management commitment to safety; (2) worker capabilities; (3) the technology employed; and (4) organizational structure (Harrison, 1994:9). Additionally, benchmarking, in and of itself, does not offer a way to assess the unintended consequences of technological change. It only offers comparative insight. An example is the use of injury data. For instance, this data might suggest strongly that injuries and deaths occur when new technology is introduced into a system without an adequate evaluation of potential human machine-environment interactions. Unfortunately, injury data is after the fact (i.e. a reactive measure). A different viewpoint is needed to deal proactively with such an issue. This viewpoint is provided by macroergonomics.
Mining-industry; Management-personnel; Work-capability; Work-performance; Work-analysis; Work-capacity; Ergonomics; Case-studies; Statistical-analysis
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
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28th International Conference of Safety in Mines Research Institutes, Sinaia, Romania, June 7-11, 1999
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division