Psychology of mine safety – by Karen McKinley (Northern Ontario Business – September 22, 2017)

Director of mining, Ontario Operations, Vale Canada Limited delivers controversial presentation on reality of zero harm policies in mining industry

His presentation started with a disclaimer that his views may not represent those of Vale Canada Limited, even joking he may not work for them after what he had to say about zero harm policies in the mining industry.

Alistair Ross, director of mining, Ontario Operations, delivered a comprehensive presentation at the first general membership meeting of 2017 of the Canadian Institute of Mining on Sept. 21 to a packed house at Dynamic Earth in Sudbury.

It focused on the policies that are meant to eliminate injuries and deaths in mining workplaces actually end up becoming harmful policies by adding too much structure and setting impossible goals.

His message sent gasps around the room. As long as humans are not factored into mine planning, injuries and fatalities will happen. Humans work in in the mining industry, humans are a collection of mistakes, humans need to be taught what it means to be human before we can start to solve problems.

“Look at who we appoint to the managerial positions, the best engineers,” he said. “I wasn’t taught by humans, only engineers, I lived my life like an engineer. The whole point of being the best engineer I could be was if I had no humans in my plant. When you train up engineers like we do in Canada, it’s actually tough to make a transition.”

The only way to make a transition and tackle the problem of workplace injuries and fatalities is to stop identifying themselves as labels and remember they are humans.

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