Safety culture assessment in underground coal mining
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Safety culture assessment in underground coal mining

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  • English

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      "The Sago Mine Disaster, on January 2, 2006, placed renewed focus on several different aspects of safety in the underground coal mining industry. One area which received increased attention since Sago and other underground coal mining events is the concept of Safety Culture. This report describes the results of a pilot Safety Culture Assessment implemented at a small Appalachian underground coal mine, hereafter referred to as the Mine. The purposes of this pilot assessment were to (a) evaluate the feasibility and usefulness of a methodology for assessing safety culture that had previously been developed for use within other industries, (b) to initiate an investigation into the understanding and defining of the existing safety culture of the underground coal mining industry, and (c) provide meaningful and useful recommendations for the participating mine for their consideration in their ongoing quest to enhance their existing safety culture. This pilot assessment was conducted in July 2007. The report provides information regarding the presence or absence of safety culture characteristics within the Mine. Observations regarding the characteristics of the Mine's safety culture that should be sustained are presented. Areas in need of attention and management focus to improve the Mine's safety culture are presented as well as recommendations for moving forward. Safety culture characteristics that are important for the existence of a positive safety culture have been identified to include: 1. Safety is a clearly recognized value in the organization. 2. Accountability for safety in the organization is clear. 3. Safety is integrated into all activities in the organization. 4. A safety leadership process exists in the organization. 5. Safety culture is learning driven in the organization. 6. A process for establishing a strong and effective Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE) is in place. Performance objectives are associated with each of the safety culture characteristics and particular behaviors and attitudes have been identified that can be measured to evaluate these objectives. Using a methodology originally developed with the support of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an assessment of selected organizational behaviors and attitudes was conducted to evaluate the Mine in terms of these safety culture characteristics and their associated performance objectives. The methodology involves obtaining a variety of quantitative and qualitative information, using multiple data-gathering methods. The information collected is largely based upon the perceptions of the individuals in the organization. The evaluation is a 'point in time' snapshot of the Mine, but cultural beliefs and assumptions do not change quickly. The feasibility and usefulness of the methodology was successfully demonstrated during this pilot assessment. All aspects of the methodology including functional analysis, structured interviews with accompanying behavioral scales, work observations, and the paper and pencil survey administration were implemented without any difficulties. Mine participants were able to provide all information necessary for the successful implementation of the methodology without any problems. Lessons learned from this implementation for future use of the methodology are discussed. The existing safety culture at the Mine was assessed against the characteristics identified to be important for the promotion of a positive safety culture. Initiatives and behaviors that are designed to facilitate and promote a positive safety culture and safety conscious work environment at the Mine were identified in the course of the assessment. These include: 1. Documentation that describes the importance and role of safety in the operation of the Mine exists and there are multiple mechanisms available to communicate the value of safety to all employees; 2. Individuals are held accountable for safety by the Company through various programs including, random drug testing, progressive discipline, and a corporate reward for safety incentive program; 3. Safety standards and norms exist for several different aspects of mine operations including maintenance and operation of equipment as well as the conduct of personnel; 4. Most individuals identified being satisfied with communication and believe that they are well informed about what is going on around the site; and 5. The majority of employees believe that they are responsible for identifying problems. The results of the assessment however also indicated that several of the behaviors associated with the safety culture characteristics need more management attention. These include: 1. While there are multiple mechanisms to communicate the value of safety to all employees, the lack of clear and consistent expectations and standards is evident in the variability of behavior with respect to safety. 2. Individuals at some levels in the organization are reluctant to accept personal responsibility and ownership for safety issues that they perceive to be someone else's job. 3. There is a need for more strategic thinking about the integration of safety into all activities and processes and how behaviors important to safety can enhance the quality of all work to be done. 4. The multiple differences in attitudes and perceptions between the various crews and groups indicate that a safety leadership process is not internalized in the organization. 5. Efforts to learn from past performance have been addressed for some major industry events, but the process of learning from all aspects of day to day performance is not consistently or systematically conducted in the organization. 6. The behaviors important to creating an environment where concerns can be raised without fear of reprisal are not perceived to be present by a large percentage of the organization. In fact, the organization may have created an environment where things are not reported. Based on the conclusions of the Assessment Team with regard to the existing safety culture at the Mine, recommendations are presented for consideration for the continued enhancement of safety performance." - NIOSHTIC-2

      NIOSHTIC no. 20035990

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