It has been a while since I posted, as other priorities have presented themselves; however, it is time to raise a voice above those priorities and again post my thoughts.
Another fatality occurred today (8/11) in the mining industry, and this marks the twenty-fourth fatality this year. Now, some may say, “There are 290,000 miners in the US, twenty-four is a very small number.” Very true, that is unless you know one of those twenty-four.
Last year at this time, there had only been thirteen deaths, almost half of this year. Why is this? Some say there are more miners this year, so of course, the deaths will go up; however, it is only a couple thousand more workers, and that is not enough to warrant a 46% increase. Some will say it is the nature of mining, nature of working around mobile equipment, nature of the beast of our work – to that, I call poppycock. There are more hazardous jobs out there that are less regulated and do not see this increase; therefore, I don’t feel it is our industry.
So, what do I believe is the cause of these deaths? Without going through and performing a causal analysis on each and every incident, all I can proffer is my thoughts formed from the information given.
In reviewing the accidents, the conclusions I draw are:
o Failure of management:
o Lack of oversight of employees – they are our responsibility.
o Lack of oversight of contractors – they also are our responsibility.
o Lack of task training – we must train on any task a person is required to do – train, not pencil-whip. Also, the days of tossing someone on a piece of equipment and telling them to ‘figure it out’, are no more – do it right the first time, period.
o Failure to hold employees accountable for unsafe acts – don’t be afraid to discipline an unsafe worker, for proper discipline must be used to check bad behavior. Award the good, discipline the bad. And NEVER award shortcuts, because that is one of the fastest ways of making a widow.
o Failure to maintain equipment – you have put a lot of money into your equipment, tools, and PPE, shouldn’t you maintain it?
o Failure of employees:
o Complacency – thinking you are too good to get hurt is usually quickly disproved by a trip to the emergency room, or worse.
o Ignorance – If you do not know how to do something, ASK before you become a statistic!
o Failure to follow established procedures – as I have said countless times, a shortcut is the fastest way to critical failure. The only thing worse than someone taking a shortcut is a boss that awards those who take them. Awarding a person for taking a shortcut just to get a job done a few minutes quicker, just affirms to all around that safety is a slogan and not a core value.
o Failure to inspect work areas – in looking at fatalities, over 50% could have been eliminated by a proper workplace exam. SLAM your area and eliminate the hazards that will get you.
o Failure to inspect equipment and tools – the other 50% of fatalities would have been eliminated if somebody would have just inspected their tools or equipment before use – eliminate the hazards through SLAM!
Multiple causations, multiple factors. In the multitude of investigations I have performed over the years, very few have only had one causal factor – none of these have only one, and yes, they all had failures from both management and the employees.
The Mine Act states that both Management and Workers must work together towards safety, for we all have a role we must follow. If you have a title of authority – leadman to owner – you have a responsibility to your people to keep them safe. If you are a worker, you have the responsibility to not only work safely and follow the rules, but you also have the responsibility to report unsafe conditions or acts to your person of authority. Remember, safety is not one person’s job; it is all of ours. We must not only look after ourselves but also those around us. I have stood over a friend’s body, and I pray that none of you will ever have to deal with that; for those nightmares never go away. So please, go out and do your part in safety, for someone’s life rests upon your actions, or inactions.