Mine Site induction
Induction in our industry is a formal requirement of all who enter a mine site. It is also in many cases a formal requirement upon entering head office buildings in our major cities. These inductions are of course different in content and duration but have a very central common purpose which is the safety of individuals in the work environment.
It is however important to recognise that beyond the formal requirement lies a much greater question for the induction programme than industry’s mandate. In effect the integrity and quality of the first induction experience for the employee or contractor will set a cultural tone for the individual entering the workforce and his or her behaviour into the future. If the safety message encompassed in a site induction and the behaviour related to it is not exhibited within the workforce then the induction will almost certainly be a failure. We hear a great deal of talk about the question of workplace culture but the importance of cohesive safety behaviour by all concerned at site is the biggest challenge that faces our industry in terms of safety and productivity.
Across Australia there are conflicting approaches to induction from the extremely rigorous to the “let’s just get it done as quickly and cheaply as possible and get the work started.” These differences in approach of course reflect not only the question of workplace culture but also the financial constraints placed on training.
A further area of concern within the induction landscape is that of shortterm contractors. With the exception of Queensland, contractors around Australia are re-inducted continuously as they move between sites. A perfect example of this is a crane operator based in New South Wales who in a normal year will spend approximately six weeks in induction programmes. These induction programs are not just about site-specific information which is of course essential, but by and large are a continuous repetition of elements of the Risk Assessment competency. If we consider that over the next five years we may face the greatest skill shortage ever to hit our industry, continuous reinduction poses significant economic and cultural questions. Simply reteaching the same information year after year implies that we are not serious about engaging with individuals about safe behaviour. Currently the exception to this approach is Queensland which has a Generic Induction (GI) for contractors, allowing them to move from site to site, with only the site-specific induction required to be undertaken. This creates an environment of integrity with regard to safety and productivity while at the same time ensuring a very significant saving to the industry.
In the oil and gas industry we now have a standardised induction which is being rolled out across Australia. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia is also evaluating the question of standardised safety induction for contractors. It should be noted that the Mark Star induction is used to a significant degree in Western Australia at the current time.
Senior Site Executives are faced with a significant challenge when it comes to what induction is taught to whom. It is clear that a site visitor induction, where an individual is escorted is significantly different to unescorted workers such as cleaners who again are in a different category to contractors and then of course site employees. One size does not fit all in these cases and it is clear that there needs to be significant clarity of thought given to the appropriateness of induction at each level which will also of course be impacted by the nature of the site concerned.
At the present time all within the industry would be aware that there is a process of Harmonisation of OH&S standards across Australia which is expected to be completed within 12 months. Harmonisation is extremely challenging given the different legislative regimes that exist in States and Territories. We may indeed expect that the outcome could be a national standard with State and Territory additions to reflect the relevant legislative requirements; however this would clearly not be the ideal result.
Another significant concern for induction training, and training in general is a frequent misunderstanding that an individual who has satisfactorily been assessed in a competency and is able to demonstrate ‘the ability to apply the knowledge in the context of the workplace,’ still does not have experience. Experience is only gained through time, and it is crucial that in all training environments we separate these two so that we understand the support regime that is essential for individuals as they move into the workplace. This understanding is no different to any other industry where support for new staff is essential to bring about the development of appropriate experience.
Central to the whole concept of training for induction and in particular safety, lies the question of trainer capability. If we look specifically at the question of safety and risk assessment, it is clear that trainers must have the capacity to facilitate adult learning. Only then can trainers effectively bring about an awareness of the requirement for behaviour modification and change in individual trainees. The current Certificate IV standard for trainers is totally inadequate in preparing trainers to genuinely be able to facilitate this outcome. This is the reason that so many traditional inductions are governed by the ever present PowerPoint slides that provide the detailed information required by the individual. This approach is widespread throughout our industry, and is a clear statement of the inadequacy of our training capability as well as a statement of failure to invest in the quality understandings and skills of our trainers.
One of the clear dangers that emerged as part of this poor quality of induction training is the move towards online training. Online training has significant benefits if it reflects the highest level of online learning available at the present time. Unfortunately much online learning has not progressed in content and understanding over the past 10 years and as such, many programs simply reflect the “tick and flick” approach that is so prevalent in PowerPoint dominated inductions. Online learning needs to be part of a blended learning environment where the needs of the learner are the priority. For example, individuals may have limited capacity to focus on a totally online course, and in this case support of a facilitator or other learning methodologies will be required.
Central to all safety is the behaviour of the individual. It is clear that no one can force another individual to change their behaviour. However, the skill of the trainer is the ability to create an understanding within each individual of the need and requirement for the individual to change behaviour. To believe that this is a simple task is naive and dangerous and may well become a factor in judging whether a company has effectively responded to its duty in terms of safety induction.
The use of appropriate simulation to reflect the reality of the workplace is essential in the way we train and assess. Simulation can take many forms and is a highly significant addition to the training environment. It is perhaps at its most effective when it allows people to make errors in safety and reflect at the same time on the horrendous realworld outcomes of their actions. The Virtual Reality training environment is relatively new but is one of the most capable in terms of developing an understanding of personal behaviour and how it may need to change in the workplace. It is of course important to recognise that to use such sophisticated tools effectively in training programs requires high capability of the trainers themselves.
Central to all induction training and indeed all training therefore is the quality of the trainer. I believe there is no greater investment required in the Australian Resources Industry than in its trainer workforce. It is essential that trainers are given every opportunity to significantly develop their skills so that they can appropriately and effectively ensure adults learn in the best possible learning framework. Failure to address this issue will leave the industry where it currently is which leaves serious questions unanswered.
We live in an age where it is no longer reasonable to believe that evidence that an individual was trained will cover our legal accountability in the event of an accident. It is clear from the many investigations over the years that quality of training lies at the heart of much of the safety debate. A company’s failure to invest in training capability to achieve appropriate safety outcomes is a failure that may well lead to prosecution. For all of us our induction program should be the hallmark of our commitment to training quality for both safety and productivity.
Since his appointment as CEO of the Mining Industry Skills Centre in 2006, Derek Hunter has led the successful transition of the organisation from a former State Government body, to a fully independent, selffunded Centre of Excellence specialising in workforce planning and workforce development in the resources industry.
Under Derek’s leadership the Skills Centre has invested in major research projects to better understand the long and short term needs for workforce planning and workforce development in the Australian resources industry. This has included research into current and future skills shortages (Heartbeat Project); strategies for up-skilling in the face of escalating demand (Securing the Critical Capability); and research into emerging technologies (Automation for Success). In line with these initiatives, Derek has led major revisions in training quality and the tools required to train a modern workforce. Derek continues to be heavily involved with other peak bodies and external organisations regarding adult learning and simulation technology in the resources sector.
The Mining Industry Skills Centre works with the resources industry to identify and solve the challenges associated with training a modern workforce. The Skills Centre develops solutions to help industry plan and develop their workforce, and provides opportunities for organisations and individuals to improve Safety and productivity on-site by implementing high quality training.
To do this, the Skills Centre partners with and supports sites, contractors, training organisations and corporate groups across our industry, while engaging with other key stakeholders such as government, the inspectorate, unions and other industry peak bodies
As an organisation that receives no government funding for its operation, the Skills Centre survives entirely on income generated by sales of its products and services. The Skills Centre is a not-for-profit organisation which means any profits made from these sales are not paid out to shareholders but are re-invested into the industry.