The regulation and compliance requirements of the surface extraction industry mean companies must be at the top of their game to provide safe and sustainable workplaces.
The drive to achieve maximum outputs without proper training and progressive leadership can result in poor work practices that lead to serious injury on-site, investigations and audits that will reduce productivity, reputational damage and subsequent losses to the bottom line.
Surface extraction courses, such as those offered by registered training organisations, focus on working with students in preparation for movement into higher levels of responsibility and accountability in terms of efficiency, sustainability and safety.
Most students want to learn new concepts and better ways to do the job, learn how others do the same job in a different way, broaden their horizons and continually improve their operations.
Greater work efficiencies mean reduced operational costs and higher profit margins, which lead to better job security and a safer work environment. Studying provides an opportunity for networking with other operators and visits to other worksites.
“Networking opportunities are a real advantage. I met people from all different areas of the industry like recycled material, hard rock and sand processing,” Holcim Australia’s Pakenham Quarry production planner Tim Etherington said.
“It’s great to meet people from different backgrounds and experiences, and create relationships that you might use in the future.
“During the course, you’re talking to people about the way things are done and the different things being tried with suppliers and wear parts.”
“The course provides for greater efficiency gains,” Hanson’s Lang Lang Quarry manager Stephen McArthur said. “When you go to another quarry, you might see how they set up tools and equipment with systems such as 5S, which calls for more efficient teams. We looked at interesting topics like stockpiling and how one location will be more efficient than having it elsewhere.
“If you see what works in other sites, you can find out what they do well. It’s a process of continuous improvement, learning from mistakes, finding out what’s done well, and establishing best practice.”
While industry demands that people in supervisory and management positions must have certain qualifications, there are better reasons than profits and compliance to ensure employees have appropriate training.
BHI trainer and assessor Noel Pickering said: “My aim is to get people thinking about what could possibly go wrong, and then putting in processes to avoid that. It’s not enough to think, ‘She’ll be right.’
“It’s a high risk industry but many hazards can be identified and risks mitigated. I don’t want to see my students injured because they don’t work in an alert, efficient and safe way.”
Steven William Smith, a mines and quarries inspector for the Victorian Department of Earth Resources, said: “Education is important, particularly in our industry, because there are so many inherent dangers and risk. It’s imperative that younger operators learn from the older guys’ experience.
“I perform daily inspections, compliance issues and audits, and you’re always assessing the risk in everything you do.
“I now use risk assessments as a tool and, when you refer to a risk assessment and have examples from other operators or people in industry, it tends to carry more weight.
“One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been in the Mines Department is that fresh eyes are important. When the same person has looked after the quarry for a while, they overlook certain things. Fresh eyes can make you aware of risks that you no longer see.”
Companies that use innovation will thrive. BHI courses ensure students perform tasks involving a broad range of varied activities, most of which are complex and non-routine.
Multi-skilling staff and teaching innovation will ensure employees can manage outputs, develop technical solutions and apply safety management plans.
“My time doing the Certificate in Extractive Industries at Box Hill was an amazing kick start to my career in quarrying,” McLeod Rail managing director Mary Thompson said. “I had an inspirational teacher, the late Charles Van Breda, a practical mining engineer. He had many great case studies and memorable anecdotes and was a gifted educator.
“After a break of a few years, I am again involved in the extractive industries, this time in south-east Asia, and when faced with an insurmountable challenge I often ask myself, ‘What would Charles do?’
“My training gave me really solid skills and confidence. We are extremely fortunate to have such a great quarry and mine manager training system in this country, and to have institutes like BHI to deliver it.”
BHI delivers Certificate III and Certificate IV in Surface Extraction Operations and a Diploma of Surface Operations Management.
Katrina Myers is a project manager at Box Hill Institute.