Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Its Safety and Production...

Hi Readers

There is a very lively discussion going on in LinkedIn about the guys who were sacked for doing the Harlem Shake underground (click here)

"Social media opinion across Australia is divided after 15 mine workers were sacked for doing the Harlem Shake dance craze while working underground.
The eight dancers, a worker who recorded the stunt as well as several onlookers were fired after the video they posted on YouTube went viral. " Australian Mining

So in the LinkedIn discussion there are three schools of thought. The first says that the guys broke all the rules and should have been fired, the second says they were letting off steam and should not have been given the sack, and the third (and the one I belong to) is that the guys were stupid, should not have been sacked and anyway this sort of thing is good for morale.

On the LinkedIn page I commented that if this had not been posted on YouTube they would never have been fired, a warning maybe, which is closer to what I think would be the appropriate management response.   One other writer commented that this action by management was a response to being embarrassed in public and that it was justified on spurious safety grounds.

More generally, I think that mining companies treat safety like a religion.   The dogma cannot be challenged, even when it is clearly stupid.   One example comes from a company where I was working wherein an employee in head office was hauled over the coals because they walked down the stairs without holding the handrail.   I get that the safety culture needs to be part of business everywhere, but walking down the stairs in an office building is not unsafe like working underground is unsafe.   There needs to be perspective.

Why is it important for us to take a realistic approach to safety?   Because if you have rules which are inappropriate to the particular workplace then the whole safety regime will fall into ridicule and people will do no more than play lip service to the rules.

I believe it is more important to have a regime that is appropriate to the circumstances, an even more importantly safety systems need to equally prioritise production or else when the production screws are on, safety will be compromised.   If a production supervisor needs to make safety shortcuts to meet a target, they will do so.   You either need to accept that production KPIs need to be adjusted down or find a way to be safer and produce more.

So lets think about safety systems that are appropriate, that improve safety, and also improve production.   And lets not make it difficult for people to behave safely, or punish them for letting off a bit of steam (as long as the are not being unsafe).

I've written about this before here.

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