Focus on 'near hits' to save lives

Posted on 16 March 2018

Repeated incidents at mines and quarries where no one is harmed, and often not reported to WorkSafe, pose the greatest risk of serious injury or death, MinEx says.

The extractives industry health and safety council released this week for the first time new statistics reporting on incidents with potential for harm, or “near hits”.

Among results is an alarming rate of workers flouting site health and safety procedures, MinEx CEO Wayne Scott said yesterday.

Procedural breaches accounted for 9 per cent of all reported incidents in the third and fourth quarters of last year, and 14 per cent in Q4 only.

“These are deliberate acts of people going outside the procedures they were trained in.”

Scott said he had not experienced any other country with this level of procedural breach, noting it is early days in the collection of data.

“You do get that elsewhere, but it’s quite uncommon in other cultures.”

In the New Zealand context, it was not enough to have confidence in procedures and people following those procedures, Scott said.

“We change this through direct supervision and hard controls, like removing people from the hazard.”

“It’s simply things like guarding everything, so that people cannot make a decision to put their fingers where they shouldn’t.”

Near-hit focus

Injuries and fatalities cover only 15-25 per cent of the incidents with precursors that could have led to serious harm or death, Scott said.

“With the new focus on reporting incidents, we have found there are a lot of near hits.”

For example, there were 94 collisions reported during Q3 and Q4, and while no one was injured, they could have been.

“That’s what I’m trying to get people to focus on, incidents where no one was hurt, but for luck and different circumstances, could have been really bad.”

The Q3 and Q4 statistics were collected from 147 operations divided between 38 operators, comprising 24 per cent of mining and quarrying operations in New Zealand.

In Q3 and Q4 combined, collisions accounted for 27 per cent of reported incidents, and falls, 24 per cent.

In Q4, the percentages for the above decreased, to collisions 20 per cent and falls 18 per cent.

The top four causes of serious injury or death around the world are, in order: collisions, falls, entanglements, and pressure release.

Next steps

Scott said MinEx is encouraging more operators to submit reports of near hits, to expand the breadth of reporting of this type of incident.

“We need to talk to WorkSafe because they have a new flavour for the collection of relevant data.”

WorkSafe has drawn the same conclusion as MinEx around the importance of focusing on repeated instances of near hits, Scott said.

“What the data will highlight is that the areas in which we are having incidents, often where no one is hurt, is where we need to focus our attention. We need to investigate these incidents, and determine the precursors to, and causes of, these incidents, before they result in serious harm.”

WorkSafe supportive

Craig Marriott, WorkSafe’s acting-general manager, High Hazards and Energy Safety, said: “Routine reporting of ‘near-miss’ incidents is well established in many industries and recognised as a key component of good practice reporting.”

“This is why notifiable events are not just limited to events where harm occurs, but includes those where there was a serious risk.”

WorkSafe supported MinEx’s approach, and welcomed any increase in industry near-hit incident reporting, and the improvements that can be gained from their robust analysis and investigation, Marriott said.

“The intervention focus for operators should be on activities and hazards of the highest risk – though these may not always be the most frequent events.”

Published in Inside Resources - 15 March 2018