The Importance of Liaising with Operators, Shift Supervisors and the Mine Foreman
Regardless of what stage you are in your career, be it a graduate engineer or senior manager, communication is one of the key factors in building a healthy working relationship between employees, technical departments and operational personnel. Effective communication is imperative to a safe, efficient and informed working environment.
The designs and plans generated by mining engineers will eventually be implemented (at least we hope!).
To ensure these plans are understood and followed correctly, it is important to liaise with the operators who are responsible for actioning them. Effective communication and collaboration allows for significant improvements to the operation as all behaviours are aligned to a similar shared outcome.
Any Human Resources Specialist or Manager knows strong personal relationships are critical to the overall productive success of people in their organisation. Considering the potential dangers and extreme working environments of mining – this is of even greater importance.
Countless mine sites all over the world rely on paper plans to transfer key information required to complete a job. It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words, but it doesn’t always give the reasons for a plan or the actual precise steps that should be followed. You must always remember that when issuing a plan, you have generally been able to review all relevant information and will have a greater understanding of the reasons behind the design.
A good way to start communication with your team is through attendance of pre-shift meetings and liaising with operators before and after their shift. During these times, plans can be discussed and any questions can be answered to ensure everyone involved understands the requirements. It is also a good opportunity to find out if the operator has any suggestions that could make it better or easier next time.
Focus on the important information required to complete the task, risks that may be associated and measures taken to mitigate them. Including reasons and justification as to why tasks need to be completed in a specific sequence will also help to explain more complex or unfamiliar jobs.
Misinterpretation or misunderstanding of a plan can lead to increased levels of risk that could easily be avoided through effective communication.
By effective communication and liaising with operations, shift supervisors and the mine foreman – it can give an accurate picture as to how a project is going. This can be from the viewpoint of ensuring the equipment is working correctly and keeping up with the jobs requirements (e.g. potential rig issues, drilling performance, charging constraints) right through to the actual production output.
Instead of calling operators in to “the office” for a conversation and “interviewing” them in a manner which may create a potential “Detective / Suspect” dynamic, it’s much better to speak to them physically during underground inspections. You will have better interaction and be seen more as a colleague rather than the engineer that sits in their office. This approach will also show others that you’re willing to work together as a team to assist the operation in achieving the best results in the most efficient manner.
It is no secret that good open communications and relationships between all levels of management associated with tech services and operations is one of the key ingredients in creating and maintaining a healthy working environment.
In summary, multi-level communication is critical for not only knowing the truth, but also ensuring everyone is on the same page. If there are problems or weak-links, they can be easily rectified to keep the mining operation producing safely.