Greetings and thank you for coming back to read another Sims 360 blog. I appreciate the valuable conversation and commentary surrounding our first blog last month and I have so many great topics that I’ll be eager to share soon! This month I am compelled to build off my first topic, increasing mining fatalities. My heart aches as I watch the death toll continue to rise and I feel I must share more.
Previously I spoke about my opinion that incidents are preventable, even fatal ones. Of course, health & safety education plays a huge role in this prevention and further, a culture of health & safety is something I believe will shift this curve.
Let’s look at some more stats and dig deeper into the importance of health & safety education using primarily 2023 data. As of this writing on September 28, there have sadly been 34 fatalities in the mining industry in 2023. The numbers provide alarming trends to this bleak reality. Of the 34 who have lost their lives, 32% had 1 year or less mine related experience. 42% had less than one-year experience at the mine where the fatality occurred. 71% of those who have died in a mine related incident this year had less than 3-years-experience at the mine they were at when they lost their life. The average age of the collective fatalities is 45. Machinery is the primary classification at 36% and Powered Haulage trails right behind at 27%.
Please pause and let these numbers sink in. These “numbers” have names and families, what if you were one of these “numbers”?
There is an opportunity here.
No, training is not anyone’s favorite activity, but it can save lives.
As I review the final reports when they become available from MSHA, the corrective action usually mentions training. With possible prevention sometimes as simple as a seatbelt.
Compliance assistance and review is an imperative part of the education process as well. Consider it like this: not only do we need to show you once, but we also need to check <frequently> to ensure that you still remember… and that bad habits haven’t gotten the better of you. Like that seatbelt.
To further illustrate the alarming rate of on-the-job deaths, the total as of mid-September already surpasses last year. I just must continue to ask, are we learning from those who have tragically left us? The data tells me that we are not.
What is one solution?
I don’t think that there is a “magic trick” or “one size fits all” solution. Training is not the end all answer either. We can train monkeys to work safely, I think one of the bigger solutions involves changing what we are educating and putting more focus into the value of that education. People are people, no one is perfect we will fail. But… who likes to hear that? How are we literally, physically, and emotionally helping each other be successful? We need to recognize the value of education and reinforcing that education. During the early 2000’s there was a significant push for educating miners at all levels of the organization about the importance of near miss and hazard reporting creating safe work environments for people to speak up and speak out. A term that has been widely used, “if you see it, you own it” meaning if you saw a hazard (something that had the possibility of creating harm or damage) then you had the responsibility to yourself and others to address it and make it safe. We have gotten away from this. The data that the 2023 fatalities has produced has led me to believe that it is more important to get butts in seats rather than educating and providing mentorship for a healthy and safe work environment. The fact that critical controls are being ignored, whether intentional or not. Where did this come from? How have we gotten away from the environments where people felt comfortable enough to speak up? I continue to hear about people who are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation. The year is 2023, we cannot be afraid to speak up anymore!
I recently heard a compelling statement; it’s hard to measure and see the value in the things that go right. We expect things to go right and when they do, we don’t count them, we can’t measure easily, we take it for granted that tomorrow will come and the sun will shine another day. Yes, the sun will shine another day, but is it shining for the 34 miners killed on the job this year? Is it shining for the families that have been left behind?
How can we start measuring the good days? This means measuring the “desired” “positive” behaviors. The more hazards and near misses (things that didn’t actually happen) that are reported and corrected BEFORE they become incidents the less incidents that will occur. If a culture is created where employees feel valued and heard, the chances of them speaking up increases and folks, we will see change.
Sims 360 Health and Safety Solutions values that culture. We value each and every person we work with and we strive to play a role in shifting this curve!