Analytics can help reduce job site risks for mining employees

Rebounding commodity prices mean new projects are coming online, and that’s welcome news for the Canadian mining industry.

But this flurry of new activity also means that organizations are facing a skills shortage. The Mining Industry Human Resources Council forecasts that Canadian mining employers will need to hire between 86,000 and 127,000 workers over the next decade. And these less experienced new hires will be responsible for operating some of the world’s most dangerous machinery. Because newer workers, as reported by the United States Department of Labor, are prone to more accidents, Canadian mining executives are asking how they can mitigate risks and ensure safety while adding talent.

Predictive Success Corp. safety studies show a direct correlation between safety incidents and the natural behaviours of employees. This is why high-risk industries such as mining, trucking and utilities are turning to science-based solutions founded on behavioural analytics.

Behavioural analytics allow executives to develop a safe behaviour profile and hire workers who exhibit similar characteristics.

Employees that fit the “safe employee” profile are naturally calm, deliberate, precise, compliant and collaborative. These types of employees are proven to have fewer accidents, a fact confirmed by Predictive’s Safe Behaviours Validity Study on truck drivers working for a large Canadian copper mine. Drivers who fit the ideal behavioural pattern for the job had zero preventable accidents. Furthermore, these drivers had zero non-preventable accidents while those who did not match the safe-behaviour profile had two non-preventable accidents. When the right person is in the driver’s seat, accidents can be prevented.

High-fit drivers had a 15% lower accident rate than drivers who were hired but did not fit the job role profile.

And because no one works in isolation, the complete safety picture also includes the team lead.

Predictive’s safety analytics experts found that the supervisory position was integral to ensuring safe behaviour in the workplace. The implementation of safe work practices starts with the supervisor, who then sets the tone for the entire team.

The research also identified three common issues that can be applied to safety in every industry. They include the pressure to “get things done now,” ambiguity in communication and poorly defined safety metrics.

The pressure to get things done now can negatively influence employees to take risky shortcuts. This pressure can come from many places, including supervisors competing in a “winning first” work culture and from the company mandate to hit deadlines to meet quotas or other key performance metrics.

Ambiguity in employee communication can be just as detrimental as a supervisor with a safety-second attitude. The safest employees naturally want to perform work “by the book.”

Consequently, any form of ambiguous communication from a supervisor could create doubt and stress over proper procedures. In turn, this pressure could lead employees to make unsafe decisions.

While companies focus on metrics to measure sales, profits and other areas of business success, they fail to quantify what the behaviours of a safe employee should be.

Without measurement, there is no ability to recognize and correct problems that impact safety throughout the organization.

To reduce employee accidents, companies must first expand their business metrics to include safety in a meaningful way.

Behavioural analytics tools provide metrics that allow employers to build reward systems that identify good safety practices – a critical component in creating a safety-first culture.

The executive team at SaskPower, Saskatchewan’s leading electricity supplier, believes in measurement. The organization has systems to measure productivity, customer service and response time.

Brian Ketcheson, SaskPower’s vice-president of human resources, said, “By hiring and promoting individuals who demonstrate safe work behaviour, we believe that their behaviour will permeate throughout the organization and create a safe work culture.”

Research findings and evidence from Canadian organizations prove that safety hinges on consistently and significantly reducing the number of accidents.

By concentrating efforts on finding workers and supervisors who exhibit traits consistent with the ideal safe-behaviour profile, employers can increase safety across their organizations.

Identifying and hiring that “safe employee” is the answer to building a workplace culture of safety and permanently lowering accident rates. •

Doug McCann (dmccann@predictivesuccess.com) is a managing principal of Predictive Success Corp. (www.predictivesuccess.com).