Miners formulate job training

DOING a job, doing it well and above all, doing it safely are all fundamental to a productive operation. Mine Safety and Health Administration supervisory mine safety and health specialist Paul Bizich Jr recently shared an outreach program entitled Job Task Analysis, or JTA, to aid in training workers by developing a comprehensive knowledge of commonly performed procedures.
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West Elk longwall mine, Colorado.

Donna Schmidt

Published in the August 2006 American Longwall Magazine

According to Bizich, who serves as the agency’s national JTA coordinator, the program not only makes miners safer by reducing injuries but also reduces maintenance expense and, in the end, improves the operation’s output. The three-pronged approach is important, he said: “Because skills training, efficient operation of job performance and safety are not mutually exclusive, efforts to improve safety can and should include all aspects.”

How is a JTA developed?

Individuals who actually do the job, day in, day out, are first selected. “The most critical factor for a successful JTA workshop is to have the right mix of participants.”

The experts then gather in a workshop environment to analyze all aspects of the job, looking at it from various perspectives. From there, a job is broken down into duties, or the functional units involved in the action, for example, the pre-shift inspection on a piece of machinery.

Each duty is then outlined by the number of job steps it requires, such as inspecting the fluid levels of that unit of equipment.

Once all of the data for the breakdown is compiled using a computer software package, the “job experts” in the workshop discuss the results, share opinions and provide feedback.

Bizich noted that this step requires the entire group to agree on what data will be included in a particular JTA, making it available virtually immediately. That’s a significant advantage to traditional job training analysis methods that can take months or longer to be verified – the JTA workshop analysis is typically concluded in three days.

How does a workshop operate?

A program coordinator, participants and mine officials typically make up a workshop. The MSHA representative will familiarize the group with the project by explaining each person’s role and responsibility, the rules of participation and the day’s itinerary.

A job listing will then be considered by all members of the group who record each job step on a sticky note, which are then affixed to a surface like a table or wall.

Because all participants are looking at the job from different perspectives, the job steps are then compiled and organized by the group in a process called job step grouping identification. For the first time in the exercise, participants may speak and discuss; this step often results in added, removed or altered job tasks.

Once the groupings are completed, a session coordinator enters data into the software as participants collectively view it on a screen. This step, called the “spider development”, is named as such for the shape the JTA takes in an electronic form, Bizich said, adding that tasks are often even further defined at this juncture.

A quick but effective voting method of “thumbs up, thumbs down” is then utilized to take a vote on each section of the JTA, which he noted can equal hundreds in a very short period of time. When a job expert feels more discussion is needed on a task, he uses a horizontal thumb, as the electronic “spider legs” of the analysis are not finalized until a consensus is reached.

To culminate the JTA workshop, participants assign and verify rankings for each job task (1 – important, 2 – very important, 3 – critical) and discuss a worksheet that is then generated on the job under discussion. Brainstorming, teamwork and the ability to develop a logical yet interesting method for teaching a job and evaluating it are important to the program.

Why use a JTA workshop?

The best mine-specific results in the most efficient and effective use of time is the chief advantage of the job training analysis, said Bizich. “Designing a training program this way makes the best use of the mine’s training time and produces the best performance from the miners … nothing of importance is left out and time is spent where it does the most good,” he said, adding that no aspect of a job is left unstudied.

Part of the success of the process is achieved through the use of individuals who do not typically have a part in the mine’s training process. The effect, which he refers to as a “buy-in” by the participants, creates a higher level of involvement from those on the front lines because they see the significance of the training in the way jobs are performed.

Most importantly, the results of a JTA workshop can be taken a step further to facilitate the development or reinforcement of a mine’s work processes and training programs. Some operations have even applied the JTA method to other work areas, including mine and process design, accident investigations, team training initiatives and more.

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