First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
Reducing accidents is important but being able to demonstrate the improvement with accurate statistics is also essential
Health and safety initiatives in European quarries have helped to significantly drive down the rate of accidents in the industry over the last decade. But it is only possible to spot this downward trend because of improved record keeping that has allowed data from different companies to be compared.
"We started collecting data in a more focused way in 1999 in response to our members wanting to make health and safety a number one priority," said Mineral Products Association
health and safety director Martin Isles, who also heads up the UEPG
's health and safety committee. "During the 1990s the focus was more on environmental issues but by the end of that decade the bulk of the work on the steep learning curve in that area had been tackled and my perception is that the mood sung to achieving the same for health and safety.
"Twenty, 30 or 40 years ago the quarrying industry had a safety record that it could not be proud of and it was a real challenge to turn this around. The UK's Health and Safety Executive
now credits the industry with a faster rate of improvement than any other sector." Today, providing statistics on health and safety performance on a quarterly basis are a condition of membership of the MPA. Through this rigorous collection of information, the organisation has been able to chart the continual reduction in accidents over the last 10 years.
"We have seen an 83% drop in reportable accidents between 1999 and 2009 for direct employees," said Isles. "This is a real achievement but we cannot be complacent and we need to sustain this downward trend. Tracking statistics and improving the quality of the data we collect is essential to make sure this is achieved and to identify areas where further improvement is possible." To do this the MPA
is changing the way it collects its data to provide more detailed information. "Now we have a structure and comparable data, we need to take it to the next level," said Isles. The MPA is moving from the accident injury rate per 1000 employees to lost time injury rate frequency, which is based on comparing injuries to the hours worked. "It is more comparable from company to company and records time lost after just one shift, rather than three days which some systems use and only captures information on more serious accidents," explained Isles.
"Internationally, lost time injury rates are more commonly used and will allow data to be compared across Europe. Of course different measures are used by different industries and in different countries so there will never be total harmony between the data but it is converging." The UEPG is encouraging its members to adopt a system based on the Cement Sustainability Initiative
to provide the association with comparable data that could present a clearer picture of safety improvement across Europe. "It will take time but we need to start somewhere," said Isles.
According to Isles, comparison of safety statistics can be greatly motivating for companies. "Internally we produce league tables based on safety information provided by our members and it stimulates competition between companies in the league table. The people at the wrong end of the tables are not happy to be there," he said. "These figures force people to question safety practices and challenge procedures." Understanding their influence on these figures can also be very motivating for employees and many companies display their safety records in reception areas on site. "We need feedback from the ground of potential problems and near misses to achieve the continual improvement," said Isles. "Statistics help to concentrate people's minds on improvement.
"This is a rough, tough industry and involves arduous work but accidents should be unacceptable and there is a real drive from company CEOs that zero harm is the aim."