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Staggering 80% of miners say industry gets OHS wrong

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Has health and safety in the mining industry really "gone mad"? We surveyed nearly 600 people. Here's what they said.

Occupational health and safety rules might be in place to make Australian mine sites safer places to work, but more than half of those in the industry think they’ve gone too far.

That’s according to the latest Mining People Polling/Media Centre survey, which asked:   

Do you feel occupational health and safety regulations on mine sites have gone too far?

Almost 600 people working Australia’s mining industry took part in the vote. Here’s how they responded:

No, not at all. There is still much more work to be done.  150 votes      25.9%
Not really. I think the balance is about right.    121 votes  20.9%
Yes, absolutely. OHS rules and regulations are over the top.  308 votes   53.2%

Mining is an industry with incredibly strict safety guidelines and at times there is a perception there’s an “intense” emphasis on working safely. So it is fascinating to observe that more than half of the workforce believe this high-safety culture we’ve worked so hard to cultivate could have gone too far.

Even split of opinion, no matter the seniority

While it’s perhaps reasonable to expect that those doing blue-collar mining jobs are more likely to feel OHS has gone too far, that’s not borne out by the survey findings.

We required every voter who took the poll to declare whether they were a Supervisor or Manager or not. Our new polling software allows us to then analyse the votes according to the seniority of the respondents. It’s here where the results become most interesting.

About half the respondents were Supervisors or Managers. Here’s how their answers broke down:

Supervisors and Managers on OHS

In total, 281 of the respondents were supervisors or managers.

No, not at all. There is still much more work to be done. 92 votes 32.7%
Not really. I think the balance is about right.  48 votes 17.1%
Yes, absolutely. OHS rules and regulations are over the top. 141 votes   50.2%

Non-Supervisors and non-Managers on OHS

And 298 of the survey respondents did not do supervisory or management mining jobs.

No, not at all. There is still much more work to be done.  58 votes 19.5%
Not really. I think the balance is about right. 73 votes   24.5%
Yes, absolutely. OHS rules and regulations are over the top.  167 votes 56.0%

What do people in mining jobs think of OHS overall?

In both the groups more than half of the respondents felt things were over the top.

It’s not the role of Mining People to say who is right or wrong in this situation, but it is fair to conclude a not insignificant percentage of the Australia mining workforce feels rules and regulations are being imposed on them that add no value.

We further solicited comments from the survey respondents, to get some qualitative data from them about their opinions. We received more than 120 comments explaining that OHS rules waste their time, add to their frustration and, at worst, create a disconnect by removing their control over their own work. That is to say, there’s no room for initiative.

To have 53.2% of a workforce feel disconnected in this way cannot possibly be good for either morale or work performance. It’s quite worrying that only 21% of respondents felt the balance was right. That leaves a staggering 80% of Australian mining industry employees – both in management and at the coalface – who feel what is being imposed on them is not right, whether they believe too much or too little is being done. There’s no calculation in which that’s a good number or good news for the industry.

Which brings us to that latter group: those who feel there is more to be done. There was a disconnect here, with 32% of Supervisors/Managers and just 19.5% of non-Supervisor/Managers suggesting OHS rules and regulations had not gone far enough.

However you view this, there’s something not quite right. How can the views of the two groups be so disparate? Either the disconnect is between workers in the organisation and the organisation’s rules, or between the levels of seniority within the organisation. Neither is good news. 

If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf, then please  email us.

Steve Heather  Gary Kearns
Managing Director & Principal Executive Search  Principal Consultant - Safety & Environment
Mining People International Mining People International
steve.hearther@miningpeople.com.au gary.kearns@miningpeople.com.au