Reducing disabling injuries on the agenda for BHP

THIS week, ILN looks at the work being carried out by the Disabling Injuries Operating Excellence (OE) team in BHP's Illawarra (New South Wales) coal mines.

Staff Reporter

The OE initiative was announced by BHP Minerals last year to examine issues affecting productivity. See article onLongwall Productivity, published on January 22.

According to Ian Pollard, OE disabling injuries coach, safety performance had hit a plateau. Annual disabling injury frequency rates (DIFR) had not improved for 18 months. The hazardous area produced 50% of the injuries at all sites.

Pollard said while some of the injuries could have been more serious they had nevertheless caused pain and suffering to employees and families.

The disabling injuries team set itself the goal of reducing the DIFR and the number of employee days lost by 30% by February 2001.

The two main causes of disabling injuries were identified as slip, trip and falls, and lifting. The OE team has come up with a range of changes that are being currently implemented at Elouera colliery as a trial site, to be operational by the end of February 2001.

At Elouera these changes have included improving walkways from the crib room to the face and the introduction of an emphasis on housekeeping. Improving lighting in hazardous areas is under trial. Some 130m of roadway from the crib room inbye to the first intersection into the hazardous area will have more lights installed. If successful in reducing DIFR, further areas into the hazardous zone will be added.

An important development has been the introduction of weekly safety discussions, run by the panel deputy. Pollard said this gave those operating in panels the opportunity to raise any small safety concerns they could deal with themselves. People had a greater sense of ownership over safety issues, he said. Elouera is also about to trial 50 pairs of Harvik boots in an attempt to improve footwear.

The OE team has not focused any attention on "catastrophic accidents", which were the subject of other management plans. But Pollard believes a focus on disabling injuries could help potentially eliminate very serious accidents.

Pollard said if the model developed at Elouera receives management backing it would be rolled out to other sites. Any implementation would need to be the subject of careful review. Increasing lighting at Appin, for instance, with its high gas content would need to be carefully assessed.

"By spotlighting 'disabling injuries' and making small changes at our sites we have seen a fall in disabling injuries across the division," Pollard said. "Since August, which was the start of the project, the disabling injury frequency rate has decreased by 26%."