Workers blind to hazards, research shows

WORKERS in the resources sector are struggling to identify hazards in the workplace, according to Edith Cowan University researcher Dr Susanne Bahn. By Sarah Byrne.

Staff Reporter

Bahn’s research found new employees at one WA-based company could only identify 43% of hazards.

And of the 54 new staff at the underground mining operation surveyed, five could not identify a single hazard.

The report highlights issues of new employees being underprepared to work in high-risk environments, while experienced workers become complacent with the risks.

“They either believe it’s not going to happen to them or it’s okay if I do it quickly,” one WA occupational health and safety manager said.

Bahn has called for reform in safety training, focusing more on practical training in identification of hazards and ongoing training for experienced staff.

“We need to go back to basic and simple ways to point out hazards in the workplace, getting out of the classroom and into the field,” she said.

As part of the report, 21 occupational health and safety managers working in the resource sector were interviewed, with one saying the training Bahn suggested had already been implemented.

“What I am doing is I take the guys out there and coach them through it,” the manager said.

“I say to them, right, let’s have a look at this hazard that you’ve found, this hole in the ground or a sharp edge or something like that. You see this as a hazard and I agree with you, there is a hazard there, but what are the risks involved here?

“What do I have to do to actually get my hand to this sharp edge? What is the chance of that ever happening?”

WorkSafe WA statistics for 2008-09 show there were six work-related deaths, 386 injuries resulting in more than 60 days off work, and 877 injuries requiring five days off work in the mining sector.