Speaker Spotlight: Sharon Parker2 July 2020
In the lead up to the Minesafe International Digital Conference we spoke to Sharon Parker to shed some light on developing positive mental health within the 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. The main message will be that organisations need to be more preventative and proactive in their approach to work place mental health, and they can do this by giving more attention to SMART work design. I will introduce the SMART work design model and how it can be used to make mentally healthier work. Not only will SMART work design boost mental health, it can enhance productivity too.
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. One very important impact has been in relation to longer rosters of FIFO workers, and them being away from home for long periods of time.
Another significant factor has been many people working from home, which raises some mental health and well-being issues that are distinct from normal times.
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. A genuinely human-centred approach that focuses on people as the key to success.
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. I believe that mental health awareness has been raised as a result of the pandemic and some of the particular challenges in the mining industry. There have been some gains in some organisations, but there is still a long way to go in other resource organisations.
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. Never make the mistake of thinking that health and safety is some fluffy, unimportant, or easy topic. There is possibly no more important agenda than ensuring that workers come home to their families safe and well. Achieving this in a sector that is engineering-oriented, male dominated, and production focused can be a big ask. We need talented passionate professionals to take up this challenge.