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More talk needed on safety

The Australian mining industry is currently facing some interesting challenges. Cost inflation is getting higher. Changes to fiscal and government policy have been occurring for years, but their volume, unpredictability and associated costs are on the rise.

Commodity price volatility is greater than ever, while issues around sustainability, the environment and human rights have escalated into more frequent episodes of community activism and social unrest.

But there is one issue that mining companies in Australia need to start taking more seriously, and that is the safety of their employees and contractors in the workplace.

Despite having very tough OH&S laws however, Australia only ranks seventh globally for lowest workplace fatalities with injuries and illness costing $57 billion in 2005/06.

This is in comparison with the UK (the best-performing nation) which saw only 562 incidents per 100,000 people, with Australia sitting at 1416 per 100,000. If Australia reached similar levels to the UK, it is estimated it could save almost $34 billion.

For mining companies, the challenge of keeping everyone safe is ongoing as they face the constant influx of new employees and contractors onsite – many of whom have and will be employed from outside the mining sector – meaning that OH&S has become an even more ubiquitous topic for the industry.

This requires company management to spend more time and resources adhering to state government legislation to ensure company-wide compliance across such areas as workplace safety, policy and procedures.

But how do you get this information to these people? It’s fair to say that the typical mining employee or contractor does not sit behind a desk with a computer from 9-5, so getting access to this type of information is even more challenging, not to mention time consuming and costly to the mining business.

In most cases, training and updates are done manually and in seminars prior to entering sites. In addition to this, many of the large mining companies have to keep all their employees informed across multiple sites, and importantly, while gathering day-to-day feedback too on company matters to ascertain important things such as moral.

But there is another way, and it’s the role of technology that can help – and the smart mining companies are starting to realise this and make use of it.

One of the first considerations is around making it as easy as possible for those using it, that is, the employees.
Handing out several hundred laptops to the workforce is neither practical nor cost-effective, not to mention the cost of continued maintenance and security required to keep the laptops and the company data safe.

A simple and far more cost-effective solution is to look at the use of touchscreen kiosk technology, similar to those you see in DVD stores or at the airport for printing out your boarding pass.

But it’s how they access that information that’s equally as important. Using intuitive web applications (like those on your smartphone) allows mining companies to deliver the latest and most critical information to its employees faster via a simple web browser that sits on the kiosk system.

These web applications then connect to company data and content, and can provide any host of benefits, such as:

• The ability for employees and contractors to retrieve any work-related documentation in a matter of seconds.
• Validate that the document or machinery the employee is working on is the latest version – a really important facet of the day-to-day business in the mining industry.
• Notices that allow you to keep your workforce up to date on anything that impacts them.
• Feedback to let your workforce rate how effective your business is and how it’s affecting them.

The ability to validate documentation in a matter of seconds provides mining companies with a real benefit not only in terms of time saved, but also a vital safety component too.

Employees and contractors need to know that the piece of machinery they’re working on is safe, or whether there are updates required.

Using technology can help with this dramatically, helping the mining companies to meet their compliance and safety requirements, and in turn provide a better overall and safer working environment for employees.


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