Speaker Spotlight: Josh Bryant13 July 2020
In our latest speaker spotlight, we spoke to Josh Bryant, General Manager People and Risk, Mitchell Service to provide us more insights on his presentation at Minesafe 2020 and the importance of health and safety in the resources sector.
Q. What message would you like to highlight to those attending the Minesafe Conference? What do you hope will be the main take away from your presentation?
A. Safety in mining has long only been about control of risk, which can largely be achieved by the control of workers. Safety Differently philosophy takes the view that the worker is the expert and should be empowered. Empowering our workers has allowed our business to improve our systems and places of work, leading to improved conditions and a safer working environment for our people. This has only been achieved by taking the time to understand normal work conditions, understanding how adaptable our employees are to changes in these conditions, and always working to improve how resilient our systems are for when things don’t go right.
Q. Will the latest developments in safety soon meet the challenges of current operations? What do you think is the key factor in working towards a zero-risk industry for the future?
A. I don’t think that there can ever be ‘zero-risk’, but the risk can be managed in a way that allows for safe operations. We are focused on our capacity to be safe, including improving our equipment and the capability of our people. The improvements in the automation of our equipment aim to reduce manual handling and musculoskeletal risks. The latest developments in our ability to gain data from the field have allowed us to make better decisions.
Q. Our global community has been significantly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you think has been the main impact of COVID-19 in the resources sector with regards to Health and Safety? Has the pandemic shifted innovations and developments in a different way?
A. Over the past few months, there has been a rapid increase in the use of technology, especially the use of video communication. It seems that a video meeting was something you did now and then, but now almost every meeting held involves a video as it improves the connection between participants. There has also been a rapid shift in field communications – we’ve seen examples in other organisations of maintenance personnel in a remote operation wearing field glasses and transmitting this too technical experts who can assist from a centre in a capital city – we didn’t see this 6 months ago.
Q. As the mining industry continues to expand and life after the pandemic pushes for more activity to boost the economy, what can we implement now to guarantee a risk-free operation for the expected accelerated work rate?
A. There is no risk-free. To suggest that we can remove uncertainty from mining is naive. We deal with humans, rock and heavy equipment, there will always be risk. What we can do now is focus on how we can allow our people to ‘safely fail’. Organisations should be focused on implementing resilient systems of work that ensure that no person is an error away from losing their life or their job.
Q. 2020 has been an unpredictable year for Australia and the global mining sector. What do you think Australia should focus on to protect the mining workforce as best as possible? Is this something that can be collectively agreed upon?
A. The biggest impact has been the transition of people between states. Resource companies and contractors have had to be very dynamic with these changes, and the controls put in place have been necessary and overall effective. Having simplified testing and the ability of the mining workforce to maintain fly in-fly out arrangements with border restrictions in place will be critical for the mining sector.
Q. Mental health is a huge issue within all industries and significantly in the resources sector. What strategies are in place to ensure a healthy workplace culture that supports all employees? Has the pandemic outbreak also accelerated mental health issues within the sector?
A. The biggest impact that we have seen in our business has been border control and the inability for some of our employees to go home to their families for an extended and unknown period. Mitchell Services prides itself on the close relationships we have between leadership and our employees, so we’ve continued to have supportive conversations and increased the amount of communication to provide updates and some form of certainty for our employees. Our Employee Assistance Program is an imbedded support available to all employees and their families, and we promote initiatives such as Movember and RUOK Day, but its our conversations that have the biggest impact.
Q. As the sector continues to change at a rapid rate, what insights do you have for young professionals interested in learning more about health and safety within the sector or for those working for the first time in challenging environments?
A. A mistake many young health and safety professionals make, particularly in mining, is they stop learning. They accept that the norm for their organisation is the only way it is done. Be curious. My advice for young professionals is to understand where safety was founded and how it has changed over time. Have a read of David Proven’s (Forge Works) recent paper on the changes we can make to our current safety practices (“Safety II professionals: How resilience engineering can transform safety practice”) – this will really open your eyes.