Lifelong learning essential to improved safety
With an ever-changing industry and the introduction of new technologies, it is important for occupation health and safety (OHS) officers, especially in the mining industry, to stay abreast of trends and new developments through continued training
All OHS professionals should approach training as a lifelong process – both for themselves and employees – in which skills are continuously updated, knowledge is refined and creative ways are found to train staff in safety protocol. This approach is particularly valuable for OHS officers in the mining industry.
Mining is a volatile industry with large numbers of employees and strict regulations, which pose some unique challenges for safety officers. Some mines recently introduced drone technology and autonomous or self-driving vehicles, each of which presents its own new safety challenges.
Remaining informed about new trends can also help OHS officers predict potential challenges in the workplace. The decriminalisation of cannabis, for example, might result in an increased number of workers arriving at the mine under the influence, but also requires a revision of testing protocol as well as the company’s drug and alcohol policy.
Another challenge facing safety officers is the increased number of employees with multiple jobs, or side hustles. Safety officers need to be prepared to deal with any potential safety concerns resulting from these activities. For example, an employee might arrive at the workplace tired, or suffer a hearing loss from performing as a part-time DJ.
Identifying and addressing these risks becomes easier with the correct training. There are several safety courses available. These range from introductory courses on health and safety, to more specialised courses such as fall-protection plan development and first-aid training.
NOSA offers a host of courses, a number of which are specifically designed for the mining industry. Some of the introductory courses include practical work experience or mentoring programmes. There are also complementary courses such as integrated malaria management and snake, scorpion and spider risk management.
Of the latter, the organisation says: “Mining companies often operate in environments where employees are exposed to snakes and other reptiles. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that staff are properly trained and equipped to deal with these risks.
“NOSA, in collaboration with Reptile Ventures, offers various training programmes for employees in the mining industry, including snake and reptile awareness, snake handling, and first-aid and emergency procedures for snake bites.”
Other NOSA courses include:
• Applying safety health and environment principles and procedures;
• Hazard identification and risk assessment;
• An overview of the Mining Health and Safety Act with all the new amendments;
• An introduction to SAMTRAC – the leading course in occupational risk management in the workplace;
• Mining incident investigation;
• Health, safety and environment in mechanised mining; and
• Legal liability for mining.
In addition to the courses specifically designed for OHS professionals, there are also some that will benefit other members of the workforce not directly involved in health and safety. For example, NOSA offers a course in safety for supervisors in mining – with and without a practical element.
Ideally, on completing the course, the supervisor will understand the common causes of incidents and the appropriate prevention techniques; the legal requirements concerning the basic duties and responsibilities of employers and supervisors; as well as the importance of education and leadership in the workplace.
Aside from the mining-specific courses, there are also training courses in fire safety, fire-extinguisher handling, confined-space entry and rescue, as well as fatigue risk management.
NOSA also offers Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) and ISO-accredited courses in various standards including the ISO 9001:2015 quality management standard and the ISO 45001:2018 OHS management system standard.
Once officers have been introduced to and trained in implementing and auditing the standard, they might benefit from software that assists in manging these and other certifications.
Saryx Engineering Group provides the HSEC Online software aimed at managing company documentation, employee certification and qualifications, contracts, as well as assets and protective clothing. The platform allows safety officers to manage and report incidents, as well as conduct risk assessments and audits.
It even sends e-mail notifications when certificates are due to expire or need attention. According to Saryx, the software “empowers organisations and personnel to easily capture, distribute and collaboratively manage company compliance information online”. It saves time and costs by freeing up OHS staff to focus on building a safety culture. This and other similar software can simplify compliance.
However, it all starts with OHS officers being committed to continued training in order to be more professional and provide improved safety solutions.