Safety: Valuing people, not outcomes

In the extractive industry, there is arguably no issue more emphasised than risk management and workplace safety.

Yet, despite the extensive advances in machine performance and efficiency, workplace injury and death rates remain high, according to Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) inspector Wayne Scott.

“We’re no longer valuing the right things – we value safety but not people. We’ve been hijacked by safety professionals and we’re driven by processes, not outcomes,” he said of workplace safety.

“We’re no longer appreciating the severity of the hazards, despite all the risk management paperwork, so the system [isn’t working]. Our values around safety should be focused on people.”

Scott has been a mines inspector with the DNRM for the past eight years. He is also a past president of the IQA and, prior to joining DNRM, was a quarry professional with more than 20 years’ experience of managing quarrying and quarry transport businesses for Holcim in New South Wales and Queensland.

He first presented his thoughts on risk management and workplace safety at the annual conference of the Institute of Quarrying New Zealand and the Aggregate and Quarry Association last year in Blenheim. That presentation subsequently earned him the Sandvik Best Technical Paper Award for 2016.

According to Scott, quarry sites have long placed too much emphasis on OHS paperwork and not enough on “practice and common sense”.

“I think we need to focus on the basics – give clear direction of what is expected and genuinely engage our people,” Scott said.

When asked if he thought quarry personnel needed to do more regular drills, training or practice runs to be more familiar with safety procedures and emergency responses, his response was a resounding “no”.

“[We need to] train our people adequately, supervise them on the job and provide them the right equipment for the job,” he said, adding he believed a reduction in the volume of OHS paperwork and signage would lead to increased safety, provided there was “strong leadership” and “genuine engagement of all workers at the site”.


According to Safe Work Australia, construction and mining sector fatalities accounted for 19 per cent of all worker fatalities between 2003 and 2015.1 Safe Work Australia includes sand and gravel quarrying in its definition of “mining”. Some of Safe Work Australia’s most recent findings include:

• 469 fatalities were recorded in the construction industry (15 per cent of all worker fatalities).
• 122 fatalities in the mining sector (four per cent of all fatalities).
• 275 fatalities in the manufacturing industry.
• Thirty fatalities in the construction sector in 2016, and as of 2 June 2017, 12 fatalities.
• Seven fatalities in the mining sector in 2016, and as of 2 June 2017, one fatality.

Discussing these findings, Scott noted we could no longer “rely on common sense”.

“Two-thirds of those that die in Australian workplace accidents are over 40,” he said. “[At] this age, [workers have an adequate] level of common sense. I think our failure to engage our workers, adequately supervise them and provide safety leadership has affected workers [more than a lack of common sense].”

With this in mind, Scott believes three main issues are holding the industry back, with failure to value “the right things” at the top of the list.

“If we [are to] truly value our workers’ safety and concentrate our efforts on what will actually stop them from getting hurt, we wouldn’t do some of the administrative [tasks] we do,” he said.

“[There’s no need to] fill out meaningless bits of paper or waste hours of our time debating the likelihood of an incident while sitting in the lunch room.”

Secondly, Scott noted that too many within the industry “copy, copy, copy”.

“Copying can be a positive thing, but with safety we seem to just copy for the sake of it. Who makes their workers wear high visibility clothing because everyone else does?

“When was the last time you looked at how effective the flashing light is in avoiding accidents? [Think about] purpose – make sure these things have a purpose for you and your workers.”

Finally, Scott noted too many operators within the industry have been “hijacked” by safety professionals.

“I am sure these people do want to improve safety, but they have flooded us with theoretical, complicated systems and forms that not only do little to improve safety, but are almost impossible for most to understand,” he said.

Instead, supervision by qualified quarry supervisors and workers – not outsider safety professionals – was “crucial” to reducing workplace incidents. After all, as Scott said: “There is no substitute for hands-on supervision.”

Scott said quarry personnel needed to ensure all their workers – including supervisors – were adequately trained and competent for all the tasks at hand, including following safety protocols, performing first aid and using a fire extinguisher. Furthermore, all on-site staff should be responsible for physically checking the plant and equipment to make sure it is all well maintained, not just “ticked off” from the office.

For genuine improvement in workplace safety, the solution heavily relies on involving all workers in identifying – and managing – all on-site hazards. After all, he argues, workers are the ones exposed to the risks and hazards first-hand, so it makes sense their involvement would allow the industry as a whole to make progress on reducing the risks of injury and illness.

As Scott concluded: “We cannot manage effectively from the office or through checking bits of paper.”


Scott said he was “very surprised but delighted” to win the 2016 Sandvik Award for the best technical paper presented at an IQA meeting or quarrying conference.

Thanks to the award, Scott has subsequently visited the Sandvik Quarry Academy in Antonio, Texas, where he was keen “to learn how quarry operators in the USA conduct drilling and blasting activities in terms of improving fragmentation and accuracy of drilling. This is a focus area of the Academy”.

Wayne Scott encouraged other quarry professionals to consider submitting applications for the 2017 IQA Awards.

“The IQA Awards provide peer recognition for the excellent work that is done in the quarrying industry. Nominating your workers for these awards is an excellent way of giving them recognition, not only from you, but from their peers,” he said.

To find out more about the IQA Awards and how to apply or nominate a colleague, visit

Wayne Scott is also the facilitator of the IQA’s Communication and Consultation PDP webinar course being held on 25 July. For more information, visit

1. Safe Work Australia, 2017. Fatality statistics by industry.

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