Key issues facing the Mining Maintenance sector – By Adam Provins
I recently undertook a survey of mining maintenance professionals to find out what they consider to be the key issues facing our sector at the moment. There were some very interesting responses, so I thought that I would highlight some of them.
These were some of the key issues raised:
Without a doubt the main influence to operations on all mine sites. Some feedback around this issue was the importance of safety and ensuring that all work orders are completed within a safe and procedural manner (with considerations of new employees and contractors coming on and off site). The phrase of “Zero Harm” was mentioned a few times; something I found really interesting on this topic was a recent presentation by Jaime Ross who spoke at the Australian Mine Managers Conference in July.
Jaime talked about the focus of Zero Harm and the negative impacts of trying to achieve it in a workplace as an ultimate goal. In summary he mentioned that the ‘Zero Harm’ safety model diverts our attention to eradicate the finer and more simplistic safety hazards in the workplace like paper cuts and potential abrasions rather than a focus on the major hazards that could result in LTI’s and or fatalities. To listen to Jaime’s speech click Part 1 or Part 2.
Does the safety focus in the mining industry need a revamp or redirection?
2. Shortage in critical spares & parts
With the mining industry putting the brakes put on in 2009/10 by in preparation of the ‘GFC” manufacturers were required to slow and even stop production. A quick turnaround in the past 12 to 18 months has seen the equipment supply industry faced with unprecedented orders and year long waiting periods. Realistic goals of minimizing the impact of this issue rather than a focus on eliminating it altogether seems to be the best method of approach. Implementing and developing lean six sigma capabilities will enhance the successful minimization for shortage of spares through forecasting and fostering business relationships with suppliers.
A question I pose here is: Are there other strategies currently be tried and tested and more-so are their strategies that are proving to be effective?
3. Skill shortages
This topic to no one’s surprise was mentioned in every response to the questionnaire.
Rather than point the finger at the lack of skill in the industry I have the following three questions:
- Does the industry divert the attention to the lack of investment in innovative long term strategies to bring apprentices through a industry wide structured system?
- Does the mining industry work on the development of a framework for bridging courses to up-skill mechanical or electrical tradespersons/engineers from similar industries?
- Does the mining industry need to introduce contract clauses so that tenure constraints accompany the completion of your trade/degree?
Aligning with key industry bodies, RTO’s and recruitment providers are some of the current strategies in the market but are these strategies a short term option or should the industry look at the bigger picture?
4. Work life balance
FIFO versus residential rosters enhance the complications around retention and attraction of project crucial positions in the mining industry. Particularly superintendant, manager and project manager level candidates find themselves weighing family life versus career progression. Company issues lie in the perception of the public eye and local community investment. I recommend reading the following article which presents the finding of the a research report on employee turnover released by the Centre for a Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) and the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC). http://www.csrm.uq.edu.au/docs/RB&DC03_FIFO.pdf
I welcome any and all feedback on the above topics.
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