Safety, Technology

How digitalising people management in mining can improve safety and increase efficiency

Advanced ANZ head of sales Damien Durston considers how digitalisation could be the next frontier in optimising mining safety and efficiency. 

Advanced ANZ head of sales Damien Durston considers how digitalisation could be the next frontier in optimising mining safety and efficiency. 

Australia’s mining and quarrying industry, with an impressive export turnover of about $300 billion last year according the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has certainly embraced digital transformation by adopting advanced technologies and data-driven processes to improve operational efficiency, safety, sustainability and decision-making.

Technologies being implemented in mining operations include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, automation, and robotics to optimise the mining value chain adding significant benefits.

This includes not just financial gains but improvements in safety, reducing CO2 emissions and saving lives.

The adoption of these advanced technologies is now commonplace in the mining sector. Yet, it’s somewhat unexpected to learn that several large mining companies in Australia, despite their sizable workforces, are still lagging in digitalising their human resources (HR) processes.

In practical terms, this means that some of these companies still rely on traditional methods like pen and paper for recording employee timesheets and spreadsheets for shift rostering, instead of more efficient digital solutions.

Many mining companies have not focused their attention on enhancing their workforce efficiency and are missing out on achieving higher productivity, cost savings and a more sustainable business model.

The change required to achieve this shift means evolving its workforce to meet these challenges and goes beyond just allocating funds for training and resources.

It requires a fundamental change in the organisational culture towards valuing digital transformation for its non-operational administrative functions, such as people management.

Mining workforce evolution

The mining industry is looking to enhance the skills of its employees to efficiently use and manage cutting-edge technologies, like data analytics and automation.

The role of digital tools and platforms is becoming vital, especially in supporting remote work and enabling employees to share knowledge seamlessly, irrespective of their geographical locations.

The effective incorporation of digital technologies for people management hinges on having a workforce that is flexible, creative and well-trained to navigate the new technologies being introduced.

Mining leaders can change their company culture and equip their existing workforce with the training needed to successfully deploy and embrace digital tools.

By focusing on digitally transforming their workforce, mining companies can stay competitive and promote sustainable growth in a digitally-centric world.

Digital transformation in mining workforce management

Tracking the time and presence of employees at mining sites is a crucial aspect of ensuring safety and efficiency in such operations. Here are eight key points to consider in this context:

  1. Safety first: Mining sites are inherently dangerous places due to the risk of accidents, hazardous materials, and challenging environmental conditions. Knowing who is on site at any given time is critical for emergency response. In the event of an incident, such as a cave-in or explosion, it’s vital to quickly ascertain who is in the danger zone so that rescue efforts can be directed appropriately.
  2. Time tracking for efficiency: Accurate time tracking helps in managing shifts, ensuring that workers are not overworked, and complying with labour laws. It’s important for operational efficiency to have a clear understanding of the workforce’s distribution and availability.
  3. Technology solutions: There are several technical solutions for tracking employees’ presence on mining sites, often based on GPS tracking. These technologies can provide real-time data on employee location, which is invaluable not only for safety but also for optimising workflow and resource allocation.
  4. Data privacy and ethics: Implementing tracking systems must be balanced with concerns for employee privacy and ethical considerations. Employees should be informed about what data is being collected, how it will be used, and the safeguards in place to protect their privacy.
  5. Training and compliance: Training employees on safety protocols and the importance of time tracking is essential. Employees should understand how these systems contribute to their safety and the efficiency of the operation. Compliance with Australian labour laws is also a critical factor.
  6. Emergency preparedness: The data gathered from tracking where mine site employees are can be used for emergency response planning. Knowing the typical occupancy and movement patterns of employees can help in creating more effective evacuation and emergency response strategies.
  7. Maintenance and reliability: Any employee attendance tracking system needs to be robust and reliable, especially in the harsh conditions of a mine site. Regular maintenance and updates will ensure the system functions correctly when it is needed most.
  8. Interoperability: Ideally, time and attendance systems should be integrated with other systems, such as rostering, payroll, HR and safety management. This integration can lead to more streamlined operations, better data utilisation and avoids issues such as employee underpayment.

While tracking the time and presence of employees in mining sites can be complex, involving technological, ethical and legal considerations across state and even international borders, it is an essential component of modern mining operations, primarily for ensuring the safety and efficiency of the workforce.

Other industries in Australia with large employee bases have seen significant efficiency improvements by switching to digital HR software systems. This raises the question: why hasn’t the mining sector followed suit in embracing these technological advancements in the management of its people?

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