Rightly consigned to history are the days of accepted poor practice and safety at work in our sector. Today, the UK minerals extractives industry is the global benchmark for operational standards of safety, delivered through a commitment to, and investment in, better operational practices, as well as improved standards of education, training, skills and leadership.
In our sector ‘Target Zero’ is a Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) programme aimed at reducing incidents of harm to zero in the extractives industry. It resonates with us as quarriers because it’s designed by people who work in and understand our working environment.
Then there is the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’ (HGBWW) programme introduced in 2016. At a more general level, it aims to further improve risk management, innovation and productivity in the workplace. Its stated priorities for the quarrying industry include working to reduce work-related illness, prevention of hazardous events and the maintenance of employee leadership skill levels.
These various initiatives have shown progress in improving health and safety in quarrying. As professionals, we need to continually address the ongoing issue of workforce engagement to ensure the highest success of any programme. Ultimately, the long-term effectiveness of health and safety initiatives is wholly dependent on the co-existence of an ongoing drive to engage colleagues to uphold them.
Employee engagement, simply put, equates to more positive, focused and productive teams that collectively increase the success of a company in achieving its goals. The power of effective engagement with employees is reflected in the UK’s Quarries Regulations (1999). Under Regulation 40, employers have a duty to ensure that the workforce actively participates in assessing risk and protecting the safety and health of everyone on site. We do not need the law to explain this – it is clearly good management practice.
The IQ Skills Wheel, which we launched at Hillhead last year, is structured around four key areas which aim to improve the core skills and knowledge of our members. This enables them to engage with best health and safety practices in the workplace.
Focusing on the key regulations and standards that support our industry, the ‘Standards & Professionalism’ segment aims to make everyone working within quarrying aware of the legislation and key documents that underpin good practices adopted in the workplace. This provides employees with a knowledge of health and safety practices which can then be built upon further using a combination of other communicative skills.
The ‘Engagement, Influence and Impact’ segment considers how quarrying and mineral extractives professionals should aim to work within teams and their wider communities and networks. By building on these relationships, your colleagues are better equipped to engage with each other and bond as a team in order to carry through best practices that will benefit everyone and keep operations running smoothly.
The Skills Wheel programme is complemented by a number of simple, useful practices we run throughout the year to increase employee engagement in health and safety. Health and Safety Committees regularly meet to discuss and resolve any issues in their respective region, and site inspections are routine. On a more direct level with employees, we run Toolbox Talks, which are a series of short presentations run regularly to highlight particular issues on a site or project.
Looking ahead, it’s the IQ’s ambition that the standards and practices that are second nature to us here in the UK become commonplace throughout the global mineral extractives sectors. It is a commitment that we need all quarry professionals to engage with to assist all their colleagues to embrace. It’s a challenge but one which I think we all agree is well worth pursuing.