Visualisation in Mining Safety

Jincom spoke to Claire Turner of Synesis Consulting about her work with large companies within the  global mining industry and the importance of simplification and visualisation in mining safety.

Claire is an organisational psychologist who works with companies to optimise human performance in safety critical industries including construction, transportation and mining. 

While advising on the implementation of a risk management strategy based on The International Council on Mining and Metals safety guidelines, Claire collaborates with HSE specialists, Jincom, to adapt health and safety tools into visual content in a variety of formats including print, digital and video. 

Claire's role as a consultant is to ensure the end user perspective is always at the forefront when it comes to designing safety processes. “We're creating with human beings in mind, recognising the fallibilities and capabilities of human beings and making sure that we build that into the design of systems, processes, procedures and policies to engage people and help them to understand, retain and communicate that information accurately.”

Her initial suggestion to clients when looking at how to communicate safety critical information to the workforce is “to make it much more visually arresting, engage people through straightforward descriptions of what the task is and make absolutely crystal clear what the expectations are.”

She recommends a “risk-based approach” that focuses on the elements that will add value. “We're not confusing them with a lot of extraneous information. We want them to get the basics done right. And if they do that, that would get us 85% to where we need to be in terms of risk management.”

"Visual presentation of safety information is a ‘no-brainer’."
Visual content works

Converting highly technical text-based content into a visual format enables faster and more comprehensive understanding and engagement. See the Top 8 Reasons Why Visuals Improve Safety.

Claire explains that visual presentation of safety information is a “’no-brainer’. We should be doing that for all safety critical information to really properly engage with a workforce who typically aren't likely to sit down and read a text document.” 

“You can send out critical technical standards, and you can say, ‘sign this to say that you've read it and that you're going to apply it’ and they will dutifully sign it. They might skim read it, but how much of that they're actually going to take in if it's just words on the page? Minimal.”

Safety controls presented in a visual comic facilitate faster and more effective understanding.

"If you give them pictures and a step-by-step and a poster that summarises all the main points, then they're more likely to engage with it and retain the information. It's been communicated accurately and effectively and then adopted."

Focusing on the end user

While some aspects of safety management are technical, they are entirely reliant on people for success, Claire said.

She emphasises the importance of meeting the needs of the individuals who make up the workforce. “The diversity of the workforce has been a real point of focus in the development of the visual materials and how the workforce is represented in the pictures.”

Giving the worker the tools to take responsibility for safety is key.  “If we ignore their needs and how work is actually done in practice, we are in danger of just pointing a big finger and just telling them to do better without providing the systems and empowering them to be able to do that.”

"If we ignore workers’ needs and how work is actually done in practice, we are in danger of just pointing a big finger and just telling them to do better without providing the systems and empowering them to be able to do that."
Filling in the technology gaps

As companies grow their technology capacity, supervisors and managers are often provided with devices to allow them to conduct critical control verifications on site.   These devices also enable them to access safety critical information and standards in the field, when they need it.

“It's all pretty seamless. You can create a QR code, they can scan it, they can do it on their phone, iPad or computer.”

While technological solutions work well where they are available, Claire says that for smaller teams in more remote locations, access to internet and devices can be more problematic and in-person paper-based materials are required to accommodate the end users’ needs. 

This is where visual posters that complement the Standards booklets - that can be placed at the point of need - bring the most benefit. 

“The posters are a great add-on because they are a means of making sure that the right information is available at the time it's needed. For something like confined space entry, we've got the Standard, which is great. But if you've got people out in the field who don't have access to that Standard or wouldn't know where to look for it, if they've got a poster at the entry point for a confined space that summarises all the critical requirements, that's brilliant.”

“You're providing information with clear expectations at the point of need so that people can easily refer to the poster and know what it is that they've got to do. And if there's any uncertainty, you've got the QR code on the poster/details where they can go and seek the full standard and find more information if they need it. 

“So I think the posters are very helpful for where technology isn't always going to be the answer.”

The human performance perspective

Claire works with global health, safety and security functions and engages with regional leadership teams to make sure human performance considerations are taken into account in strategy.

She explains how important it is to really understand the end user perspective so that the strategy is designed with workers on site in mind and to keep the messaging consistent. “We're reliant on people to implement absolutely every process, procedure, technical standard, ways of working, expectations from the top - all of that needs to be filtered down, effectively communicated, understood, in order that it's adopted successfully.”

Safety is moving from being a technical, mechanistic discipline to being more humanistic, Claire explains. And even within an autonomous system the human operator must be considered. "Somebody's responsible for making sure that it works, for calibrating it. Even a bund around a containment vessel - if it's not checked for cracks or that it has good integrity, then it's not going to work when you need it to."

“So you're still reliant on humans, whether they're maintaining a critical control or whether they are the actual control through a procedure that they follow.”

"There is a real desire to incorporate a human performance perspective and build it into how work is done so that safety is not seen as something that’s done to people, but that people create safety."

Claire said the mining industry has a “real desire to incorporate a human performance perspective and build it into how work is done so that safety is not seen as something that's done to people, but that people create safety. So it's about building that capacity and resilience and making sure that the systems support people to work safely.”

Taking a holistic approach to safety, “graphical presentation of information is one dimension of a much bigger picture”, Claire said, adding that “visual content works beautifully because it's part of a complementary set of measures with the end user as the predominant focus for safety.”

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