Beer, motorbikes and why safety is in the eye of the beholder

I find the practice of a safety share prior to meetings a fascinating mining ritual. I usually sit there, racking my brain for something clever or inspiring to share, hoping someone else already has a share ready to give. It reminds me of being back in primary school, hoping not to get picked to answer a question. What is the capital of Delaware anyway?

Like those primary school questions, I find the answers equally fascinating. Does anyone have a safety share?

In a recent meeting, I heard a safety share about driving a motorcycle more safely. The gist was to drive slower and scan the road for animals as one had darted out, almost causing a crash for the rider. Fair enough. This got me thinking again back to my youth and my mother telling me never to get a motorcycle. Sage advice. I’ve known more than a handful of people killed or seriously hurt on a motorcycle. Four wheels are more stable than two wheels.

This made me wonder, why are motorcycles even allowed? They are intrinsically less safe than cars due to their less stable design. I also think of my beer. Scientists recently said we should not have a single drink, ever. I take another sip.

Then I realized, humans consistently trade off safety, and not just for mining production, or to save time or money, but for a whole host of silly reasons. I’m curious.

Luckily, someone else has already thought of these things. The “Social Amplification of Risk Framework” helps explain how certain factors affect your behavior and perceptions of the likelihood and size of different risks. These factors include your information sources (for example, personal experience or indirect communication), how that risk is communicated to you, social network effects (opinion leaders, social norms, rules and laws, etc.), and personal traits such as attention level and comprehension. In essence, no one person will see the same risk the same way, but groups and cultures might perceive risks similarly.

Kasperson, Roger E.; Renn, Ortwin; Slovic, Paul; Brown, Halina; Emel, Jacque; Goble, Robert; Kasperson, Jeanne; Ratick, Samuel (1988). “The Social Amplification of Risk: A Conceptual Framework” (PDF). Risk Analysis. 8 (2): 177–187. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1988.tb01168.x.

I see this frequently in my travels. Where one mine or even a mining region/country might not be concerned with universal, scientifically proven risks, such as alcohol consumption or operating in a fatigued state, another mine would have implemented a program to address that risk.

For example, by June 2019 South Africa will be the only country that compels surface mines to implement vehicle intervention systems to take control of a machine if the operator does not react appropriately to a collision avoidance warning. Why not other countries?

Hexagon’s award-winning vehicle intervention system is helping mines to comply with new safety laws in South Africa.

One mine diligently manages and maintains its safety systems, ensuring up-to-date configurations, firmware, and system health of a collision avoidance system, while another mine may have installed it years ago without worry because it satisfied the local mine inspector’s request.

This is shown in the way a mine perceives the impact of the risk. How much does the mine perceive the impact of the risk? Do they calculate the cost if there is a shutdown after an incident? Is the potential litigation risk calculated? Is the risk to the reputation, not just in sales but also being an employer of choice, understood? Simply put, all these factors could be considered as:

(Perception of Risk Likelihood) x (Perception of Risk Impact) = (Perceived Potential Cost)

Of course, one of the hardest challenges then is to put this into action. Miners, from my experience, are practical people. Developing a nuanced understanding of what shapes the individual perceptions of a risk might take as much a psychologist or sociologist than an engineer. These soft skills are required to not just assess the risk but assess why we might perceive something is not a risk; truly a new way of thinking for many mines.

Developing that understanding why the miner with the motorcycle didn’t see the same risk as my mother will take a different mindset towards risk assessment. However, as always, I have faith in progress. Mines will continue to bring ideas like this from the wider industry into their operations.

In the meantime though, where’s my beer?

Andrew Crose, Director of Sales, EMEA

Andrew is a miner at heart and has participated in digital strategy, IoT, big data, and other technology initiatives with some of the world’s top mining houses. He is a Six Sigma Black Belt trained in process improvement on projects in the mining industry. Andrew brings more than 15 years’ experience in sales management and operations, with the last 10 years in the mining industry. He is responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of sales processes for the Operations’ product portfolio.


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