Achieving improvements through efficiency is everyone’s business in the workplace, and this ethos should be embedded in the culture of the organization.

Globally, the mining industry needs to become more sustainable and cost-effective through changing practices and innovation. Employers and employees need to look at ways of improving the way they work to survive in a competitive market. Achieving improvements through efficiency is everyone’s business in the workplace, and this ethos should be embedded in the culture of the organization.

This article discusses design thinking as it applies to a crucial component of industry, health and safety. Here’s how to get improvements into the workplace and owned by the employees.

Engage Your Employees

One of the best ways to empower your employees is to get them engaged in changes that improve the workplace. Toyota does this brilliantly by letting the workers put their ideas forward. As a result, they look at over a million suggestions annually, and many of these are used. Some of the simplest improvements come from those working on the front line.

The mining and oil industry are among the most hazardous places to work, and employees will be full of ideas for improvements. When workers are engaged in improving work, the culture begins to change, and there’s a real sense of ownership about the workplace issues. This is an excellent way to show employees their opinions are valued, and this, in turn, can create empowered and motivated workers.

Use Design Thinking

The global mining industry is an ideal sector for using design thinking to improve the way things are done. This technique uses human need in addition to traditional change methods. It enables employees to find things out for themselves and not just rely on what they are told. There is significant opportunity to get employees to take ownership of some of the key issues in a workplace with regard to health and safety. Siemens used this approach to explore what the mining industry wanted and developed a rescue device for mine workers using coloured paper. Safe Design is another technique used in the mining industry to improve safety in the workplace. It eliminates hazards and operates by involving decision makers at an early stage and includes input from all facets of the lifestyle of the product. In Australia, using this approach in mining has reduced costs by 5-10%, simply by eliminating hazardous processes and products. Instead of hitting the workforce with budget reductions, the change was made through making things safer.

Learn From Errors

In an ideal world, there would be no mistakes. However, a missed check on machinery or a failure to wear safety gear can lead to accidents. The aviation industry has made big changes to the way it works based on human errors and what it has learned from them. Some of these principles are used in hospitals and can be adapted for use in other industry sectors such as factories and oil rigs. The pipeline construction industry in North Carolina reduced errors by raising awareness of mistakes made in the workplace.

By monitoring errors and reviewing the root cause of the problem, changes can be implemented very quickly. For the staff, it gives a real-life example of how a problem occurs and where safety checks or changes can minimize the impact of it recurring. But more importantly, it encourages more reporting and an open culture through learning from errors. Taking that proactive approach can make a big difference in turning around a situation where health and safety may not be taken as seriously as it should be.

Engaging workers in health and safety projects enables them to transform their own working environment by designing new ways of doing things. Learning through sharing experiences and owning some of the issues result in a positive culture change in regards to health and safety in the workplace.