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  • Writer's pictureMichael Peelish, Esq.

Training that Reaches the “Safety Soul”

This time of year, there is a lot of MSHA annual refresher training occurring, especially in the colder regions of the country. As trainers plan beyond the required topics, they try to think “outside the box” and try to find ways to reach the “safety soul” of the miners. What does that mean? Simply put, it means getting miners to believe that they have a duty to watch out for each other by speaking up, or by showing safety leadership by setting the right example so others will follow. The question is how to achieve this result?

The mine operator can only encourage employees to communicate what they see during the workday that may have been a near miss or an unsafe behavior so that such conduct can be eliminated in the future. What really needs to happen is that employees need to take charge of their workplaces because it is the right thing to do, not because someone is telling you to do it.

So, mine operators have to reach an employee’s “safety soul”. This requires a conversation about life, not about safety. For instance, ask two employees if they give the other employee permission to address their unsafe work behavior or an unsafe condition they were exposed to or a near miss. Most would be embarrassed to say no. Then ask both employees are they willing to listen to the conversation. This is where folks may push back and you need to be prepared to have miners understand the importance of giving and receiving constructive feedback. This is an important skill for miners to have to achieve continuous safety improvement so have employees pair up and role play. Give them scenarios and let them give and receive constructive feedback. It may sound silly, but sometimes you have to break the ice.

Another tip is to ask two employees sitting next to each other to interview the other and then to introduce them to the rest of the group. Inevitably, employees find out something about a person they did not know which makes it more personal. Other techniques such as the “buddy” system are ways to encourage employees to watch out for their co-workers. I realize that employees are apprehensive to “tattle” on someone, but that is not what this is. This is not kids play. We are talking about your actions being the difference between someone getting injured or not. This is where the passion of the facilitator or trainer has to drive home the point. So, as an aid to get miners to think differently about safety, have the miners write down three things they will do more of (such as telling another employee to use their PPE) and three things that they will do less of (such as not jumping off equipment to dismount).

As a manger, the conversation must begin and end with safety. "Good morning, are you feeling safe today? Are you present and ready to work safe?" And then, "how was your safety today? What can we improve on together?"

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