I am saddened to read again recently of a fatality in the quarrying industry, in circumstances, which on the surface, would appear to be avoidable. While I am not idealistic enough to believe that accidents won’t happen, it is surely the duty of all of us to ensure that we are doing everything within our power to ensure that we look after ourselves, and the people around us.
I also don’t want to be judgmental as I think that our propensity to apportion blame in difficult situations is one of the reasons why we don’t learn from serious incidents and fatalities.
I also believe that we have been conditioned by “safety professionals” to believe that complicated systems, complex risk management processes and exceptionally long and detailed safe work procedures are going to protect our workers, and more importantly protect us from regulators when the “crap hits the fan”.
The latter will possibly help in some jurisdictions but in my experience simple manual systems, basic hazard management processes and safe work procedures written by the workers in a language that they can understand are far more likely to protect quarry workers from harm.
These simple systems are also much more sustainable and require less training.
And let’s face it, being safe is not difficult, nor costly. Safety is purely about identifying the hazards around us and managing them in a way that reduces the risk of injury to workers and others on our quarry sites. How you do this is very much up to your own personal preferences but I have a couple of rules that a colleague shared with me recently that I encourage quarry operators to consider:
- Make sure that everyone who works for you can identify hazards and is happy, and encouraged, to discuss them with you.
- Always consider ways to eliminate hazards
- or change the method of work rather than look at written procedures, checklists, communication, and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) to manage them.
- Ensure your people are competent to conduct the tasks you ask of them.
- Supervise, supervise, supervise! Most of us underestimate the value of our experience and the impact we can have on others.
- Keep your safety system simple and with minimal paperwork. People do not become quarry workers because they enjoy filling out pieces of paper.
Some of you will be wondering at this point why I haven’t mentioned the much acclaimed “risk assessment”. I am a firm believer in risk assessment processes but the purpose of a risk assessment is to identify hazards and manage them by reducing the risk of people being exposed to them. In our industry today, far too much emphasis is placed on the completion of the risk assessment form and the calculation of the risk score.
Neither of these actually improve safety. We need to redirect our focus with risk management back to what we actually want to achieve, and that is managing hazards so that they do not injure workers.
I encourage all of you to have a good look at what your safety system looks like today and how effective it is in actually making your site safer.