During May, Engineering & Mining Journal (E&MJ) hosted the Haulage & Loading conference in Phoenix, Arizona. More than 300 people attended the three-day event, where experts talked about all aspects of operations and management. The technical program kicked off with a session on safety training.

Two experts talked about successful strategies that they had implemented. Most of the discussion boiled down to better educational procedures, treating people like people, and eliminating the potential for accidents to occur. Implementing these programs requires leadership, which differs from management skills, and a big commitment as far as effort.

Today most of the safety dialogue revolves around the constant pursuit of zero—zero fatalities, zero lost time accidents, etc. While that is an ambitious goal, safety experts doubt that any company can achieve it until they begin to identify and control exposure. Many times mines determine success by tallying the incidents. Rather than targeting a lower number as far as incidence rates, develop new ways of thinking about safety performance. One of the recommendations was to look at exposure as the cause and the incident as the effect.

To move forward successfully, companies have to establish programs that strike a balance between empowering and managing people. How many times have we seen a mining company invest in tools that monitor behavior and then use that information as evidence for command-and-control management? Maybe the money should be invested in training the people rather than the monitoring gear.

Feedback on performance is crucial. One of the presenters gave an example of a mine that employed a telematics system to track its drivers. The data showed that they had a problem, but nothing improved. Then, they decided to use the system to alert the driver and gave him a set amount of time to correct the situation. They saw immediate and continued improvement.

Successful mine managers demonstrate leadership. They are authentic and they care about others. They motivate people to focus on what they can do. They stoke a fire within people rather than lighting a fire underneath people. This is a leadership trait that is learned from other leaders over time.

Mine managers have to embrace the plan. Until they change the behavior and what they believe, they will have a hard time changing what they do. That’s why it’s important to communicate objectives and build trust. Explain what you are going to do and why. Don’t get frustrated if they fail to share your vision and you will earn their respect.

An unsafe mine is usually a costly operation and unprofitable mines close. Granted, it’s hard to place a price tag on safety. If a dozer backs over a pickup or a haul truck rolls over a berm, there is a known replacement value. The same is not true for injuries and fatalities. However, industry experts will say that a fatality at a mine site starts at $6 million and costs continue to mount until the mine makes substantial improvements.

Sometimes we forget that we have people looking up to us. So, when you’re interacting with others, remember to step up your performance, give them 100% and keep looking for the right answers. They are counting on you.

Steve Fiscor, E&MJ Editor-in-Chief,