Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

March 3, 2016

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Putting the human factor at the heart of health & safety

Rene Aguilar, Group Head of Safety at Anglo American explains how important it is to focus on employee behaviour, attitude and motivation in order to create a strong safety culture.

Every industry is exposed to varying degrees of risk. However, it is widely understood that operating companies should take appropriate action to mitigate existing levels of risk as much as they can. The mining industry is no different as it involves an inherent amount of risk in varying forms. As some of that risk can be significant – and cause people harm – it’s imperative that steps are taken to manage potential on-site hazards. Providing a safe and healthy workplace is Anglo American’s first priority and we have a variety of systems, processes and controls in place to help us achieve this.

Identifying the critical safety risks that are specific to our business and the controls needed to prevent those from causing incidents, or reduce their consequences should they happen, is a key priority for safety improvement. We don’t just focus only on systems and technological innovations, but also the employee behaviour, attitude and motivation needed to create a strong safety culture. Our aim is to positively change employee attitudes and behaviours one by one and we realise that this kind of change requires a substantial investment of time and effort. Through taking such a holistic approach, companies can practice better safety, and in Anglo American’s case, achieve our ambition of zero harm more quickly and effectively.

To accomplish this, we have a comprehensive ‘Learning from Incidents’ (LFI) process which is used to rigorously investigate incidents that occur at our sites. As a result of these investigations, we are able to determine the root causes of why they happened and the measures needed to address them. This includes identifying absent or ineffective controls so that these can be immediately put in place or improved helping to ensure that our health and safety measures are as effective as they can possibly be.

As part of improving the control management systems that the company has in place, it’s essential to consider culture and behaviour. For workers to carry out tasks safely, it’s important that they understand their individual role in creating a safe work environment for themselves and their colleagues, which is why we invest significantly in analysing and addressing the ‘human factor’ in all safety incidents.

A measure recently implemented at Anglo American is the psychological-based technique called Human Factor Analysis (HFA). HFA is one of several tools that helps us to identify the lessons we must learn from incidents. HFA’s contribution is to examine the human, behavioural and cultural factors that each play a role in an accident. Once these factors have been highlighted, they can be used to inform the creation of appropriate actions and strategies for preventing similar incidents. In this way we are able to see not just what technical or procedural changes are needed to improve control use but also the behaviours and attitudes required. It is this in combination that helps us improve safety control use and effectiveness.

When using HFA, the first step is to identify the factors that led to or contributed to an accident. There are three different levels involved in this: workplace, organisational and personal. “Workplace” examines the broader context in which the accident occurred in, the task itself and the level of engagement. “Organisational” focuses on the corporate imperatives, decision-making processes and links with leadership, revealing the role that the organisational culture played. “Personal” provides a clearer picture of what was going on at the time for the people who were directly involved in the accident. At this stage, aspects such as an individual’s health, capability, fitness, and situational awareness, as well as team-related elements such as leadership, cohesion, dynamics, process and diversity are all taken into account.

Once an HFA investigation has been concluded, appropriate recommendations and changes can be made to ensure the right risk management processes and controls are in place. These also inform the broader safety strategy and procedures of our business – from group level to mine management. This helps us to move forward towards realising our vision of ‘zero harm’, the achievement of which lies at the heart of our approach to both health and safety and guides everything that we do.

Rene picture (3)

Rene Aguilar is the Group Head of Safety at Anglo American.



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R K Jaggi
R K Jaggi
8 years ago

The use of HFA is very interesting and my company is interested to find out more. We are in high risk industries in marine and construction where fatalities and major injuries are common. Using HFA as part of the accident investigation will certainly help us to focus on the human side, on top of the systems and processes. Any help in pointing us to the right direction in HFA is most appreciated.