SA Mines and Energy Journal : February-March 2010
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 29 WORKFORCE Working with families A family day at Oz Minerals' Prominent Hill mine aimed to alleviate the stress the job can put on workers' private lives, writes Antonia Mertiris, SACOME Director Skills and Education. With the employment market starting to improve, experienced workers will soon have a greater choice of employers than since the beginning of the economic downturn. With this in mind, it is critical for organisations to look at developing ways to retain key staff. The fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) mining model is an important workforce component of many organisations in the industry, but it can be problematic for workers, particularly women. Research from Canada into the FIFO model identifies the key areas of stress as: times of parting and reunion, difficulty defining roles within the family structure, guilt over not being at home, and conflict between spouses over parenting and the use of leave time. The same research suggests FIFO is viewed as rigid, incompatible with having a family (particularly young children) and a significant cause of stress on personal relationships. The Australian Federal Office for Women and the Minerals Council of Australia have also conducted research on the effect of FIFO on women, in particular, and have come to similar conclusions. They made a number of recommendations identifying ways to make FIFO less stressful for all involved, including increased flexibility to allow for participation at significant family events, and providing a more family-friendly work culture. Oz Minerals has placed itself at the forefront of best practice in the area of retention and has given its Prominent Hill staff the opportunity to bring their families into their world of work. In October, more than 100 family members travelled to the site for a family day, which helped employees' partners and children better understand where it is they go for weeks on end and what they are doing while they are not at home. Activities on the day included a tour of the processing plant and pit, as well as the opportunity to use new facilities such as a swimming pool, and cricket and tennis courts. It is hoped the day will go some way towards alleviating the stress the fly-in, fly-out model can put on family life and, in turn, help the workers to continue to perform their roles. Ultimately, this should lead to improved retention of experienced workers by the company. Resource companies that have been granted or are nearing mining approval in South Australia can take advantage of the services of an experienced occupational health and safety expert for up to 10 days at no cost. SACOME has been granted funding from the Mining and Quarrying Occupational Health and Safety Committee (MAQOHSC) to run a new program to help emerging mining companies assess their OH&S needs and implement improvements in their systems. The program recognises that the transition from "project" to operating mine represents an opportunity for firms to promote skills, knowledge and a culture that represents best practice in OH&S. Kym Mitchell, a Director of Macss Group, has been appointed as the consulting OH&S specialist for the project. Fresh from completing an efficiency/structural review for BHP Billiton's Emergency Response Capability at Olympic Dam, Mr Mitchell brings a wealth of practical experience in the safety area that will be offered to a limited number of companies. "This is an excellent opportunity for companies that are developing safety systems to get an experienced, realistic assessment of their programs and the offer of advice and direction for future sustainable safety improvements, " he said. Jonathon Forbes, Director -- Industry Development at SACOME, will be jointly managing the project with Jamie Tunks, of the MAQOHSC. "We are funded to work with five companies for 10 days each and we have already engaged in preliminary discussions with a number of interested organisations, " Mr Forbes said. "It's not often you can access a person with Kym's experience for no cost, so please call me at SACOME as soon as possible if you're interested. " Jonathon Forbes: ph (08) 8202 9999 or email jforbes@ sacome.org.au Free OH&S advice for emerging miners Colin Lollo (Mine Geology Superintendent, OZ Minerals), Reece Lollo, Imogen Lollo (both in front), Helena Lollo, Tyler McViegh and Matthew Lollo.