Promoting a simple safety culture

I was on the beach last year in Queensland, minding my own business, reading a book and lying in the sun, when I noticed a nearby family with two young boys. Both boys were busy playing in the sand, as you do at that age, digging a huge hole and building sandcastles. (Here’s a thought: all young kids at the beach are in our industry as either quarry or construction managers.)

Anyway, they had a collection of Tonka toys, digging and filling a toy truck. The younger fellow would reverse the truck carefully, making pretend reverse beeper and truck engine noises. It’s the reverse beeper I picked up on; here we have a
young lad who has already got used to a simple safety culture.

With 17 deaths so far to the end of June 2014 in the mining and extractive industry (as reported by Safe Work Australia), I believe it’s our worst year in some years.

Other statistics are also sobering. There were 70 fatalities in other sectors combined to the end of May 2014 – in construction, manufacturing, transport, agriculture and so on (also reported by Safe Work Australia). There were 481 road accidents involving fatalities to the end of May 2014 (as reported by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics). Some of these roadside deaths would be included as workplace incidents.

The source and accuracy of these figures could be challenged but the reality is we have a big task to reduce our workplace-related deaths or injuries, as well as reduce the road toll. Sadly, the road toll has become “part of life” in some ways, getting local coverage in the papers when a sad event happens and, unless major, little coverage anywhere else.

It’s possible someone reading this issue of Quarry has recently been affected directly or indirectly by an accident. I apologise for reopening the pain this must bring. We can never give up working on safety – at home, when travelling on our roads or at work. It has to become ingrained in our way of life.

I recently attended the 12th annual Queensland Quarrying Safety and Health Seminar, jointly organised by the IQA, CCAA and the Queensland Government at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was attended by over 280 delegates from quarrying, construction and mining companies.

All attendees had taken time out from their busy work schedules to listen to a very interesting program. It included presentations on health and safety implications in the future (as presented by CSIRO principal scientist Stefan Hajkowicz), the promotion of safety through behavioural change, Toll NQX’s drive cam program, unauthorised site access (presented by southern Queensland mines inspector Wayne Scott) and an update from Queensland’s Chief Inspector of Metalliferous Mines Phil Goode.

Closing the day was a very special presentation from Rachael Robertson, who was the station leader at Davis Station in Antarctica over a six-month winter period. She spoke about the challenges of keeping a team safe in the harshest environment on Earth.

My thanks go to the organising committee, chaired by Queensland branch chairman Clayton Hill, major sponsors Hastings Deering, Komatsu and the Australian Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation, plus all the exhibitors that supported the event. The seminar was chaired by Leanne Parker who did a fine job keeping us on time.

These safety seminars are being arranged by IQA branches in other states and I encourage you to attend. We can never stop striving for a safe workplace and a safe return home to our families.

Now back to the beach. As a kid I always wanted a Tonka toy backhoe but had to make do with a plastic shovel. Nothing’s changed now – but the size of the excavator I could use around the paddock would be bigger!

Until next time, stay safe!

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