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Event Management in Mining. An article by Andrew Howarth, CEO

Few would challenge the need for event management in mining. The sector is hazardous, and its long history of preventable industrial accidents and mining disasters suggests that voluntary approaches alone will be insufficient to achieve a high level of Workplace Health and Safety, Risk, Compliance and Event Management.

The mining industry conducts more risk assessment than most other industries, but is the risk assessment at the highest standard possible? With the introduction of improved risk and incident/event management, catastrophic events have declined in Australasian mining according to the NSW Department of Industry and Investment, the government body that oversees mining safety in NSW.  However, organisations need to maintain a high standard of identification and assessment of hazards and risks that can lead to such events.

Today, the majority of organisations manage workplace events on the basis of severity and their impact on business operations. This involves taking a reactive approach whereby, if the severity is deemed to be low organisations do not allocate the time, resources or controls required to build a risk framework to prevent the event from occurring again.

There is a trend to identify the individual safety risks, such as slips, trips and falls, with the high consequence/low probability risks being discounted. While this process is essential, when practiced in isolation, it can overlook the potential for events to measure the effectiveness of an organisation’s risk management processes.

“In most of these risk assessments the major risk has not been considered, or when it has, it has been determined as low risk as ‘there hasn’t been such an incident for years”says Andrew Howarth, CEO, RMSS.

Mining organisations must move away from a reliance on procedural controls towards a greater focus on engineered risk controls to escalate events on the basis of risk (potential outcome) not just severity (actual outcome). By adopting a risk based approach, organisations can learn from events (a risk that eventuated) and implement a preventative framework to reduce negative events or prevent them from occurring again.

Organisations that manage events on the basis of risk are turning a reactive situation (the fact that something happened) into a preventative situation and creating a learning organisation. Learning from events is about understanding why the event happened and linking it back to risk management. In order to progress from a reactive approach to events to a preventative approach; it is important to map the event including the relevant causations.

The organisation must develop a clear process to understand what happened including the major contributing factors. This will allow the organisation to conduct a risk assessment, put a control framework in place, reduce risk and prevent events from occurring again. Some organisations will do a root cause or a fault tree analysis to determine the causations of the event whether it may be to do with fraud, property damage, injury etc.

If the organisation is able to look at the functional relationship (the types of risks that have been identified across various categories of the organisation) as well as the physical relationship (where the risk is actually occurring) and determine the correlation and relationship between the two, this will help the organisation to introduce risk management and adopt technology better across the organisation.

The organisation must compare and analyse the difference between where they think their risks are occurring and where they are actually occurring after applying an Enterprise Risk Intelligence (ERI) approach.

Risk Management is not necessarily an intuitive process; it can be a difficult task to implement organisation wide and a challenge for many organisations. The process is difficult because there are a variety of concepts to assimilate throughout the organisation and a number of pitfalls to avoid. Risk Management must include all of the organisational factors from the top down to ensure that the correct risk, event and compliance safety culture flows from the board room to the mine site and is entrenched between.

Organisations across a variety of industries are recognising that risks are no longer merely hazards to be avoided, but in many cases, opportunities to be embraced. Risk Management and Enterprise Risk Intelligence (ERI) have emerged as important business trends that provide long-term benefits for the organisation.

Organisations need to move towards the escalation of events on the basis of risk not just severity. They must view events as a source of information to inform an organisation about the effectiveness of their risk management processes and foster the vital link to establishing a proactive risk and event management culture.

Editorial by RMSS.

Reference from the following:

Risk Magazine, " Room for risk management improvement in mining."  

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