Overcoming Resistance to Health and Safety Changes in the Australian Mining Industry
Over the past decade, the mining industry in Australia has made significant improvements in mine safety and worker health. Yet still, it has one of the worst rates of worker injuries and fatalities of any sector of the economy.
While there is an inherent risk with the nature of the environment and the work required, workers and their families need more reassurance that they, and their loved ones, will return home at the end of each day.
Naturally, executives, managers and their teams want safer working conditions to minimise the risk of injury and fatality. But when it comes to implementation, lack of sufficient resources, time capacity, stakeholder reluctance and communication breakdowns are common obstacles for resistance.
For any safety change to be successful within the Australian Mining industry, these common obstacles need to be managed
Empowering mining safety managers to drive change and achieve buy-in from their teams.
Understanding the reasons behind resistance to change is the launchpad for future success. Many factors drive change resistance, and by identifying and understanding them, mining safety managers can better address the concerns and fears of their teams.
Common contentions can be around learning something new; the unfamiliarity with new processes and technologies can create feelings of inadequacy. Some workers may perceive the change as a threat to their job security. There can also be sentiment around the additional burden further procedures and authentication processes may have on getting the job done.
Establishing a mine safety committee can be a good option for bringing together different department representatives to collaborate on initiatives, training programs, and mine safety management systems to enhance employees’ understanding of the protocols, equipment, and technologies.
Early workforce involvement in decision-making develops a sense of ownership and camaraderie. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas, and encourage them to discuss their worries, ideas, and suggestions for improving health and safety!
Communication: the leadership language
Prompt and clear communication is essential for facilitating effective change. Ensure the communications team are across the new mine safety training and mine safety management systems to craft relevant messages that outline the reasons behind the change, emphasising the purpose and benefits (“what’s in it for me”).
Utilise multiple channels such as meetings, newsletters, and digital platforms to disseminate information that reaches everyone. Note influential people who are on board and see if you can engage them as a champion of change.
Workers will feel valued and heard if invited into the decision-making process early. Genuinely seek their input and make it easy (and confidential if they wish) to provide suggestions, ideas, and feedback.
Actively listen to the concerns and fears and take the time to address them individually or in group settings so you can provide reassurance, explain the rationale and clarify any misconceptions.
“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity” – Nat Turner.
Strategies for change resistance
Any change must be accompanied by comprehensive training and education programs to ensure workers fully understand the new mine safety management systems.
It includes information on why the changes are necessary, how they will be implemented, expected outcomes, proper use of equipment, and how it will help them.
Other key ways to meet the resistance and effect change:
- Leading by example is one of the best ways to garner support. When health and safety managers demonstrate their commitment, it helps create a safety culture that becomes business as usual.
- Publicly recognising and rewarding team and individual adherence and highlighting efforts can motivate others greatly.
- Ensure that workers have the necessary resources, equipment, and support. Training refreshers and regular check-ins will address challenges or questions.
- Regularly communicate the progress made in implementing the new policies and procedures. Share success stories, statistics on improvements, and lessons learned along the way. Keeping the team informed and engaged will help maintain their commitment to the changes.
One team, one dream.
Mining life is hard on workers and their families. The time away from home, isolation and missing out on important events and social activities combined with the intrinsic work risks.
Impress Solutions are here to support you in creating and implementing mining safety strategies that work. In joining forces, we can make ongoing positive changes that protect the well-being of mining people.