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Why Culture, Safety and Attitude Are the Most Important Parts of Running a Mine

It’s an often repeated mantra, but it’s one that can’t be said enough. Safety is the most important part of operating a good mine.

On the latest episode of the Full Production podcast, we had Phil Gilligan come by, a mining careerist who has made safety, health and environment training his calling card for years now. Phil and I have known each other for a long time, and he’s always been someone who can relate to his workers while still helping them understand the importance of safety.

Implementing a healthy culture is a mining site is a challenge for everybody. You have sometimes hundreds of people, and the last thing they want to do is to be told how to behave and think.

But promoting safety culture isn’t always about making people care about these things. Here’s what Phil had to say about the culture in the workplace:

“Having the right people in the right positions is the key to success, and valuing the people you’ve got. But it takes a little bit of time to get that behavioural culture back into the people, and that just doesn’t happen overnight. That’s something, just to make sure people are safe. If people don’t believe in that, then you haven’t got a good environment.”

For Phil, being open or straight up is one of the most important things you can do, as well as putting people in positions that are best suited to their skill sets. If you have an employee who is terrible at operating heavy vehicles, you’re asking for an incident to happen if you keep sticking them in one. They’ll become discouraged, get sloppy and stop caring about their performance.

In the same vein, squashing problems before they become big issues is your job as any sort of manager in a mine. With almost any work-related accident, you can go pretty far back and see where things started to unravel. Maybe it was some managers getting lazy with their safety checks, or employees on the ground not taking seriously your different precautions. It only takes a little bit of apathy for an accident to happen.

That’s why culture oriented around safety is something you can’t put enough effort into promoting. We know that our workers sometimes take safety for granted; it’s an industry full of tough guys and gals. But the worst thing you can do is let an environment of “good enough” overtake your work site.

At the end of the day, you need to be investing in people. Make sure that your colleagues are feeling appreciated and understood. Instead of lording over your workers, make them feel like they’re part of a family. It’ll make all the difference.

Listen to my entire conversation with Phil here.