What should be considered for effective safety and health supervision?

Why is supervision important?

Supervision is a fundamental safety function applicable within all levels of an organisation. It complements the provision of information, instruction and training, and influences how well organisations achieve the safety and health objectives of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994.

Effective supervision sets and maintains high standards of performance and the physical aspects of the work environment, and is critical to achieving and maintaining the desired safety culture.

How can effective supervision be achieved?

Effective supervision can only be achieved through a multi-tiered, team approach where each level of the organisation plays a part in implementing the overall safe systems of work. Supervisors depend on direction and support from middle and senior management, as well as the involvement of the workers and contractors they direct.

What resources are required?

Mining operations range from exploration sites, small mines and quarries to large diverse operations with multiple mining areas, some with a significant construction and maintenance contract workforce. Consequently, each site should undertake a risk assessment to determine its specific resourcing, training and skill needs for the effective supervision of all workers.

The level of supervision depends on the state of knowledge, qualifications, experience and training of workers, as well as the nature of the task and associated hazards.

What do effective frontline supervisors do?

A broad range of competencies apply to frontline supervisors, including the ability to:

  • communicate clearly
  • implement and monitor the site’s safety and health programs, policies and procedures to meet legislative and corporate requirements
  • identify hazards and apply risk management processes to the work they are supervising
  • develop work priorities
  • coordinate resources
  • develop teams and individuals
  • show leadership in the workplace
  • establish effective workplace relationships
  • investigate accidents and incidents.

How are supervisors developed?

Training and professional development

Training and ongoing professional development should be used to develop, maintain and improve supervisory skills. A training needs analysis will help identify the training requirements for organisations, groups, positions or individuals. It should be conducted in consultation with relevant personnel (e.g. managers, supervisors). The analysis should identify:

  • required competencies, training needs and skill gaps
  • skills for future development
  • desired skills to be assessed during recruitment.

Are qualifications required?

Some supervisory appointments at a mine require formal recognition of qualifications or experience through a certificate of competency.

Where no statutory qualification is specified (e.g. supervisors of surface operations), the supervisor needs to be competent to carry out the task.

A competent person is defined as a person who is appointed or designated by the employer to perform specified duties based on knowledge, training and experience.

Refer to s. 4 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 for the definition of competent person.

Why is supporting frontline supervisors important?

Responsibilities

Frontline supervisors are the direct link between management and the workforce. They are responsible for following the directions of management, implementing the site’s safety and health management systems, and supporting the organisation’s safety culture.

Role of management

Management support for frontline supervisors is critical. Matters that should be addressed include:

  • ensuring those with supervisory responsibilities know what is expected of them
  • identifying and rectifying gaps in the knowledge and skills of supervisors
  • ensuring workers being supervised understand the risks
  • associated with the work environment and measures required to effectively control those risks
  • ensuring the control measures to eliminate or reduce
  • exposure to hazards are effective, current and being properly used, maintained and monitored
  • providing administrative support and streamlining requirements (i.e. reports, meetings) so the focus is on direct supervision
  • monitoring the effectiveness of supervision to allow early detection of developing issues so appropriate assistance or intervention can be effected

Supervisory issues

The actions and behaviours of supervisors will influence the safety and health of workers, as well as the working environment. Having insufficient or inexperienced supervisors can lead to situations that increases safety and health risks to workers.

Related information

Below is the list of documents and links that you may find useful.

Effective safety and health supervision in Western Australian mining operations - guideline - 1819 Kb

Effective safety and health supervision in Western Australian mining operations - guideline: This guideline highlights the importance of frontline supervision within workplace safety and health systems, and the role of management.

General duty of care in Western Australian mines - guideline - 3442 Kb

General duty of care in Western Australian mines - guideline: The purpose of this guideline is to provide guidance on the ‘general duty of care’ provisions of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994.

Frequently asked questions on management and supervision at mining operations - information sheet - 277 Kb

This information sheet outlines the frequently asked questions on management and supervision at mining operations.