The general business case for increasing workforce diversity in mining is well established. Improving earth moving equipment design can remove significant anthropometric and other work demand impediments to establishing a more diverse mining workforce. This requires practical on-the-ground improvement of current operational practice and improvements in equipment design, particularly for maintenance tasks.
In May 2018, EMESRT coordinated a Human Factors Design for Diversity (HFDD) workshop. Workshop participants included a range of industry personnel including experienced maintainers and operators of both genders. The workshop was facilitated by Robin Burgess-Limerick, Professor of Human Factors within the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre at The University of Queensland, Australia. Attendees came from EMESRT members and non-members as well as technical experts in ergonomics and human factors.
The initiative was the catalyst behind the successful funding submission of an ACARP project proposal by Professor Burgess-Limerick titled ‘Mining equipment human factors design for workforce diversity’.
The primary focus of the project is on designs which do not adequately accommodate potential operator and maintainer physical characteristics (static anthropometric variability); and with equipment operation and maintenance tasks which do not sufficiently accommodate potential variability in operator and maintainer strength, flexibility and reach distances (dynamic anthropometry).
Key objectives are:
- To identify and describe design issues with current mining equipment which are a barrier to workforce diversity
- To document and evaluate remedial control measures currently undertaken at sites
- To communicate the results of the investigation to equipment designers and mine sites
A review and critique of anthropometric design requirements for mobile plant and equipment currently documented in ISO standards and Mining Design Guidelines is being undertaken to provide a context for the subsequent investigations.
An extensive audit of mobile plant and equipment operated and maintained at Australian surface and underground mines is underway. These audits systematically examine the operational and maintenance tasks associated with a representative range of equipment types; document both the anthropometric variability limitations associated with the equipment designs, and undertake an analysis and evaluation of the musculoskeletal injury risks associated with the equipment related operational and maintenance tasks.
The details of the audit strategy will be defined in consultation with the EMESRT Human Factors Design for Diversity working group. As well as documenting anthropometric variability limitations and highlighting manual tasks which require excessive force or extreme postures, the project will also document redesign actions which have been taken at sites to reduce these risks.
In 2020, EMESRT will schedule a HFDD workshop to discuss the project outcomes and identify next steps.