RIO TINTO WEIPA: The Value Proposition of Good



RIO TINTO WEIPA: The Value Proposition of Good
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
RIO TINTO WEIPA: The Value Proposition of Good Work
Sara Pazella, Robin Burgess-Limericka, Tim Horberryb, Gary Dennisc, and Christian Wakelingd
a Minerals
Industry Safety Health Centre, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, AUSTRALIA,
b Monash University Accident Research Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
c ErgoEnterprises; d Rio Tinto Weipa
Investigations were undertaken at a North Queensland mining organisation with a high level of maturity
associated with good work design and participatory ergonomics practices. Lead and lag indicator reports
and industry award reports were reviewed. Semi-structured and unstructured interviews were
conducted with management, program coordinators and workers during a site visit. A formative process
was undertaken during the investigation to determine achievements and areas for improvement, with
retrospective review and consensus achieved from organisation representatives at various levels of
management. Two case studies were highlighted in this paper to illustrate their good work design
initiatives, one describing hand injury reduction rates and the other addressing biomechanical risk
reduction for low back injury.
What is Good Work Design?
Good Work Design represents work that provides for harmonious safe, health, and productive work that
also supports the creative contributions of a diverse work team. It is underpinned by the tenets of human
centred design and participative ergonomics, and advances Total Worker Health® (Sorensen et al, 2016).
Good Work Design encompasses and provides for:
1. Critical event management
2. Significant task, equipment, and work systems design or redesign
3. Strategies to optimise health & well-being
4. Social connection
5. The attainment of enterprise goals for good business performance (throughout the supply chain)
6. Good governance supported by effective knowledge systems
7. The promotion of social and environmental sustainability
To achieve good work design we need to know what "good" looks like. One may extend this line of
thinking to ask: at what point have we achieved optimum performance and can it get any better?
To advance good work design, we may strive to understand the elements that contribute to positive
performance. There are a range of variable circumstances such as the inherent nature of humans,
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
workforce characteristics and strategies, interdependent and contingent factors that contribute to system
performance, potential unwanted events, risk determination, positive reinforcement factors, redesign of
erosion factors, change opportunities and readiness, and leadership support.
Challenges to Integrate Programs
A challenge for many organisations is the integration of good work design activities at a systemic level
sustained by supportive leadership practices (Sorensen et al, 2016). In a review of literature, participative
ergonomics, a tenet of good work design practices, met only a small number of elements required within
an occupational health and safety framework. Structural program and language differences did not
facilitate easy integration in safety management systems and, thus, the ergonomics programs were left to
operate as stand-alone (Yazdani et al, 2015).
Too often, to address health initiatives, organisations provide programs targeted at individuals and
behaviour change without tackling the system-level policies and practices (Carayon, 2006; Henning et al,
2009; Karanika-Murray and Weyman, 2013; and Sorenson et al, 2016). However, organisations may have
more influence over these system-based interventions, which are also more likely to act as preventive
measures (Burke, 2014) and develop sustainable and resilient programs (Henning et al, 2009; Kohler and
Munz, 2006; Mellor et al, 2012; Munz et al, 2001; and Sorensen et al, 2016). However, the practices take
time, resources, and considered effort (Pazell and Burgess-Limerick, 2015).
Risks Associated with Failure to Adopt
There are risks associated with failure to adopt good work design practices (BS ISP 27500: 2016). These
risks include: reduced accessibility of services, products or systems; impaired usability of tools, devices or
systems; product failure; fractured or inauthentic support for diversity; lower levels of workforce
competence; and ineffective training and engagement initiatives (BS ISP 27500: 2016). Distributed
situation awareness may be reduced and costly system failures may occur (Horberry et al, 2015; ISO 92412010: 2010; and Stanton et al, 2007). Safety may be compromised at a level that may lead to catastrophic,
fatal, or disabling events (BS ISP 27500: 2016). There may be little evidence-based, concerted efforts to
prevent musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. Burgess-Limerick, 2011; and Torma-Krajewski et al, 2009).
Occupational rehabilitation return to work programs may be less effective. Security may be compromised
(BS ISP 27500: 2016). Opportunities may be missed to improve safety culture and establish a positive
work climate (Laing et al, 2007; Laitinen et al, 1998; and Lallemand, C., 2012). Efforts to achieve
sustainability in environmental and social practices may be thwarted. There may be reductions in the
value proposition of work activity and an organisation may face increased costs to address these
shortcomings (BS ISP 27500: 2016). An organisation without well integrated and inherent good work
design practices may have low levels of change-readiness (Village and Ostry, 2010) and may be at risk of
not employing tactical, evidence-based work strategies (Boatman et al, 2015; Glimskar, 2013; KaranikaMurray and Weyman, 2013; and Sorenson et al, 2015).
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
About Rio Tinto Weipa: The Organisation
Rio Tinto Weipa (RT Weipa) operates two continuous mines/beneficiation plants at East Weipa and
Andoom to produce 28.5 million tonnes of bauxite annually. They own and operate two diesel engine
power stations and facilities include main administration, warehouse, laboratory, ship loading, and port.
Staff comprise approximately 1200 workers and an additional 200 contractors, with seasonal adjustment
in work activity (Rio Tinto, 2016).
RT Weipa is the winner of the Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference Health
Program Award 2015. Their program submission described the details and outcomes achieved through
the implementation of their participatory ergonomics program that has been operational for the last 6
In mining, generally, musculoskeletal disorders represent a high percentage of injury statistics resulting
in potentially disabling conditions (Torma-Krajewski et al, 2009). RT Weipa achieved a reduction in hand
injuries annually from approximately 20 to 1 and musculoskeletal disorders from over 85 to under 20 per
annum and the rate of injury reduction is continuing. There has been a significant reduction in the
following: all injury frequency rate (AIFR) from 0.92 at the end of 2011, halving to 0.46 by the end of 2014
and further reduced to 0.1 by October 2016; the number of statutory WorkCover claims from 29 in 2011 to
12 in 2014; statutory WorkCover costs from $159,561 in 2011 to $2,633 in 2015 YTD; and common law
claims costs from $1,262,978 in 2012 to $670,082 in 2014 (Wakeling, C., 2015; and Wakeling, C., 2016).
RT Weipa has trained 20 representatives as manual handling area assessors representing each
department in the organisation and a range of different jobs and skill set (e.g. diesel fitters, engineers,
support officers, health, operators, maintenance, fitters & turners). Training recurs every two years to
assure currency. The initial program train-the-trainer training was provided by an ergonomist who also
represented the risk assessment and control evaluation tool, ErgoAnalyst, that is still in use in the
organisation. The program coordinator, with assistance from a nurse on staff on a rare-basis to cover
absences, also represents the team dedicated to occupational rehabilitation and return to work program
management. This represents a ratio of 20 to 1 in terms of the number of preventive design champions
assigned to facilitate good work design versus injury management staff assigned to treatment of workers.
RT Weipa targets 30 high-risk manual tasks per year for redesign and collectively the work teams have
met this goal for the last several years, every year. The organisation has coupled their manual task risk
management approach with a program targeted to reduce hand injuries. Their lead indicators and
performance measures help business units target manual task risk reduction with at least 60% of tasks
selected for redesign to include meritable risk reduction potential for hand injuries, referred to as “Hand
Red Zone” tasks.
Good work design is celebrated with monthly and annual innovation awards. Design improvements are
regularly communicated within the organisation at a site, multi-site, and corporate level. The focus for
work design improvement is extended to assist contractors, e.g. Child care services, waste service
provider, construction and geology teams, and explosive services.
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
The aim of this case study is to identify organisational drivers of a mining operation, Rio Tinto Weipa,
that has achieved some significant success with their good work design initiatives. Further, a program
example was dissected with the aim to identify elements of the design process and outcomes achieved.
A site visit was attended and semi-structured interviews were conducted with light vehicle maintenance
staff and the coordinator of the ergonomics and occupation rehabilitation services. Staff showcased a
number of tools that had been custom-designed in the workshop and new supportive equipment
purchased to aid efficiency and safety. They described changes to work systems and leadership
strategies, also. Two previous phone conferences were held with the program coordinator during which
structured and semi-structured interview process was engaged. An unstructured brief interview was
conducted on-site, also, with the mining superintendent. Documentation was reviewed and this included
audit tools, ergonomics and manual handling policies and procedures, “Green Banner” design briefs,
poster material (program communication and promotion), PowerPoint presentation material describing
key program drivers, award submission material, and detailed email communication documenting a case
design process.
A framework of persuasive language was devised to classify statements, expressions, ideas and actions in
order to describe themes or trends. Elements of organisational drivers were reviewed with two
contemporary frameworks that point to good work design.
Case reviews were conducted and this included their hand “red zone” injury prevention program. Also,
a retrospective review was conducted of a geological work bench modified in a utility tray to illustrate an
example of the organisation’s participative ergonomics practices: from concept to implementation.
Formative analysis was engaged to brainstorm areas for improvement with study participants and this
was recorded in the findings below.
Language Content Analysis: Persuasive Ideas Describing The Program
Comments recorded during the semi-structured and unstructured interviews with light-vehicle
maintenance workers (n = 2) and two management representatives (n = 2) were tabulated. The
information was organised in terms of the technique employed to convey ideas in a persuasive manner
regarding the implementation, successes, and barriers associated with the participative ergonomics and
good work design programs (Refer: Table 1 below). An interesting juxtaposition was revealed. This was
related to a management perspective that successful program performance existed when good work
design ideas were generated from the shop floor. In turn, shop floor workers (maintainers) indicated that
they had the good ideas all along but required organisational support to feel unencumbered to progress
their redesign projects.
Comments from both cohorts revealed shared, tacit knowledge about successful programs that revealed
maturity in the program delivery. There was a shared believe that safety objectives and business value
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
were inseparable, the projects led to an empowered and engaged workforce with greater tolerance for
varied work capacity, and that design should be progressed through a supply chain of manufacturers
through to contract delivery teams.
Persuasive Ideas and Language Content Describing Participative Ergonomic Practices
Maintenance Workers
Program Coordinator &
the message
Rhetorical statements
Describe the focus
Repeated statements
“… shouldn’t be hard, should it?; should
be easy; should be able to just do it!”
“… too much hammering, then the job
might need to be changed”
“it’s obvious to us on the tools; shouldn’t it
be obvious to middle managers? These
projects save time and money”.
“many of our redesign projects extend into
improvements for the environment, our
land strategy, also”.
Appeal to hope and inspiration
Speak of pain or challenges
“The Transformation Plan has allowed us
to use our minds a lot more”.
“In the past, with unsupportive team
leadership, we had to sneak-in our
innovations or seek support elsewhere
knowing we may bear the consequences of
going outside standard reporting
“The messages we saw about
organisational change and desire for good
work design helped our confidence to keep
championing our cause. We now have
supportive leadership”.
“I become excited by these projects,
“it has been important to us to
establish our values around these
projects: shared beliefs and attitudes
about what is important”
“the value proposition must be
conveyed in all of our projects; what
saves money or produces more
(volume or sales) for reasonable
investment; yet we have not linked
our safety initiatives well with
business improvement strategies as
we strongly value safety regardless”
Describe values
Speak of one’s vision
“it’s about empowerment”
“we treat contractors like guests; we
extend our knowledge and safe
performance coaching to them, also”
“when the guys on the shop floor live
and breathe the initiatives, we know
we’ve had some success”
“sustainability exists when we see it
(the work) from the shop floor”
“we’re doing well but we certainly
don’t have it all right; we still have a
lot to learn; and we continue to strive
to do better”.
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Persuasive Ideas and Language Content Describing Participative Ergonomic Practices
Maintenance Workers
Program Coordinator &
spending my own time on Google
searches late at night to help innovate”.
Develop trust
Explain rationale
Cite examples
Describe the logic
Cite evidence
“tasks should be easy to perform; if not,
they may need change”
“the solutions are successful when they
save time, create efficiencies, produce more
output, and reduce product failure. For
example, our automatic tyre changer”.
“it would make more sense if suppliers
would get involved; at the moment a lot of
redesign work occurs by us in the
workshop and we become designers”.
“no matter the metrics used, it’s still
about working with humans and this
requires knowing when the time is ripe
to introduce and advance an
“when we present the value
proposition of a project, it still must
speak to the underlying culture and
“An enterprise must work with less.
It’s not that we don’t have money; we
do. Resource allocation must be
linked to a value proposition, that’s
all. We must not get stuck into
thinking, ‘there is no money!’”.
“Many organisations conduct
widespread stretching programs but I
see no evidence that this prevents
injuries in industrial settings;
moreover, I read evidence that this is a
costly practice”.
- “We regularly celebrate good ideas”
Personal trust
Every day language used
Inclusive language
Use simile or business analogy
Express ideas as though they were
a shared vision
“If it is inefficient, you need to think too
much about it, it is not safe, (or you need
to keep hammering), then it is likely too
hard and you need to build a tool or buy a
new tool”
A tour to showcase 12 good work design
“It is basically a six-sigma process
(e.g. define, measure, analyse,
improve, control; OR DMADV:
define, measure, analyse, design,
“we all must learn how to be
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Persuasive Ideas and Language Content Describing Participative Ergonomic Practices
Maintenance Workers
Program Coordinator &
initiatives through a participative process
persuasive as, no matter the
included: e.g. auto-tyre changer, swinginitiative, we must sell the idea to a
down hinged belly/bash plate for vehicles,
team and almost always each
drive shaft removal tool, seal installers,
individual represents competing
gear box secured plate, ball joint changer,
spill guards around bath, hydraulic hose
“We must help teams form good
protection sleeves, radius arm bush tool,
decisions in ways that seem efficient,
front wheel bearing plate, a turbo wash
quick, and easy; not nebulous,
machine; and the trial of balancing beads to
esoteric, or complicated. In other
support wheel alignment.
words, something that expresses
(with whistles and bells or images)
what we might want it to say or
intuitively know”
Table 1: Persuasive Language Content Analysis Describing Participative Ergonomics Programs
Organisational Drivers
Two reference documents were used to help guide discussions about RT Weipa program performance: A
conceptual model described as a method to integrate worksite health protection and health promotion
(Sorensen et al, 2016) and the BSI ISO Standard 27500: 2016. The tables below describe program elements
identified in RT Weipa related to the principles outlined in this material (Refer: Table 2). Throughout the
interview process, collaborative brainstorming occurred and ideas were formed regarding opportunities
for ongoing improvement. The improvement opportunities are listed in Table 2, also.
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Integrated Approach to Protection and Promotion of Total Health: A Conceptual Model
RT Weipa Activities
Industry is heavy mining industry, predominantly male, residential
leadership &
workers (little FIFO other than contractors). A land-use motto to support
the sustainability of the community: “To work on the land, we must live on
the land” even if this model is costly to pay rural living penalty awards and
travel benefits
Strong diversity program commitment and community sustainability
efforts: 22 – 25% of workforce is of indigenous heritage
Positive performance indicators include reward for lead indicators of
hazard reduction; targeted trends and clear and broad communication to
work teams
Indicators reward design rather than incentivise non-report of injuries;
contractor support is included in these objectives
Communication frequency, volume, and content is high with regard to
safety, good work design, and health messages
Investment in technology that is adjustable to suit a wide range of users
High profile Board Member / other leadership visibly championing issues
of accessibility and good work design; design to achieve inclusivity and
diversity is clearly articulated throughout the supply chain. Workforce
initiatives are considered for procurement of capital equipment to plan for
the future (E.g. if the organisation wishes to recruit more women, these
design objectives are articulated and planned for in the procurement
specifications for capital equipment that may be used by women in the
future according to fit and manual task interface demands).
among health
promotion, and
work functions to
benefit health,
safety, and wellbeing initiatives
Strong efforts to implement programs that are evidence-based
Stellar performance in setting improvement targets and achieving goals
High levels of program participation
Accessible early-intervention soft tissue management service to identify
early hazard reports and support work surveillance
Pre-employment, functional capacity, and early intervention screening
occurs regularly; work conditioning is provided for new employees and
injured/ill employees returning to work
Include human factors design consideration with critical event
management strategies (critical risk, controls, and high-incident event
analysis); capitalise on potential through organisational ergonomics
Extend progressive work conditioning for seasonal work flow changes or
job role changes
Policy: Classic-OHH-STD-804 (19.02.2016 version): HSEC Management
System: Manual Handling and Vibration Standard: “to ensure employees
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Integrated Approach to Protection and Promotion of Total Health: A Conceptual Model
RT Weipa Activities
and contractors do not experience adverse health effects from poor task
policies and
and equipment design….”
Comprehensive, targeted audit tool and annual process: “Manual
Handling and Hand Red Zone Programme Protocol”
Key job roles and tasks have been assessed for task flow, physical demand,
work conditions, and environment
Task risks are assessed regularly with aim to reduce demand to meet
capacity of a wide range of workers: e.g. limit physical exertion, exposure
to awkward postures, vibration, hand injuries, repetition, prolonged task
exposure, fatiguing conditions, inefficiencies, or similar
Effective risk determination and reporting tool that is widely known,
recognised, and defined in policy statements and audit tools (ErgoAnalyst)
Psychosocial support: well-celebrated monthly and annual innovation
awards at a site and multi-site level; standard anti-discrimination policies
but also practices to design for more inclusive work roles
Tacit knowledge high with shared vision to reduce hazardous manual task
exposure combined with target to reduce hand red zones (hand injuries)
with at least 60% task effort to include red zone risk reduction
Visible design improvement work boards (Green Banners) and target risk
reduction areas
Training inductions, tool-boxes and safety topics regularly include
ergonomics issues
Communicate systems support early symptom reporting or improvement
Retrospective program review is common to study program success and
the multi-modal, complementary interventions that led to success (Refer:
Figure 1: Hand Red Zone Program Campaign)
Procurement practices to include human factors ergonomics design as a
condition of service and transparent in product design by suppliers
Develop decision support systems that illustrate the priority task and
control selection with defensible and transparent communication;
communicate decisions to diverse vested parties when/as needed in
digestible form; become industry leader in this practices
Business Improvement strategies to include value proposition
consideration of safety and work design initiatives
Implement “near right” reporting: an extension beyond hazard
identification, near miss, or injury reporting to recognize when workers
make work system, task, tool, or equipment modifications indicating a
design opportunity
Introduce “study success teams” for site visitation to other business units
to best understand case study successes; investigate good work design
externally in own and other industries to generate innovation ideassharing cross-industry; form “mixed teams” comprised of different job role
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Integrated Approach to Protection and Promotion of Total Health: A Conceptual Model
RT Weipa Activities
/ levels of seniority to review good work design activity in and out of own
industry. Capitalize on the design skills of mechanic teams through active
inclusion of these representatives in design teams even in nonspecific/different business units
Table 2: Site Examples of Integration of Protection and Promotion of Total Health
Hand Red Zone Campaign
RT Weipa included a targeted campaign to reduce hand injuries with their hazardous manual task risk
reduction program. The campaign set targets to facilitate decisions made regarding to allocate resources
for task redesign. Each business unit was required to identify and support task redesign when at least
60% of tasks chosen included a risk reduction opportunity for hand injuries. Safety teams investigated
appropriate glove wear and provided training to work teams accordingly. However, the business
recognised the evidence that supported re-design and a top-tier control hierarchy (elimination, isolation,
substitution, and reengineering) as the most effective intervention strategy. Refer below to Figure 1 for
an illustration of the factors they identified contributing to the success of the program: A reduction of
over 20 hand injuries per annum to zero in 2015. Figure 2 and 3 illustrates a sample hand red zone task of
hammering before and after redesign.
Figure 1: Hand Red Zone Program Determinants: Reflective Review of a Risk Reduction Program
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Image courtesy of ErgoAnalyst
Figure 2: Traditional hamering activity was identified as a hand red zone task that could be improved
Petrie Terrace QLD 4000, Australia
Image courtesy of ErgoAnalyst
Figure 3: A design improvement to isolate hands and fingers from hammer blows, reducing hand injury
risks from high (orange) to low (green)
Case Study: Design of Work Bench for Geological Sampling Campaigns
A geology drilling campaign is an annual event, typically occurring over 5 to 6 months. The task is
performed by contractors, considered by RT Weipa as part of their team. The workers involved in this
practice include a geologist to conduct logging, a sampler, and a driller. However, at times the geologist
may be involved in sampling and logging. The work occurs over 12 hour shifts during which time 40 –
50 holes are drilled and each hole will comprise 25 samples (per shift: 1000 - 1250 samples) (Wakeling,
2013). Seasonal demands will vary, with some seasons requiring < 40,000 samples taken, others up to
125,000 samples.
In 2009, the geology team reported that they had access to a 3m side tray bench that allowed for up to 12
samples to be viewed but there was a risk to mismatch sample numbers and lose sample sequencing
when a small sample size was assessed. To review a greater number of samples and achieve more space
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
to work, the team brought the samples from the cyclone section of the drilling rig to the ground and
spread out to perform their work. The ground-based task procedure typically involved (Wakeling, 2013):
Driller placed samples onto the ground in two rows of 2 – 3 metre length
Logger identified the samples to log
Logger assigned a sample ticket to the relevant sample
The sampler attached the tickets
The sampler tied the sample bag
The sampler collected the samples, stands from crouched position, to place in a box located in the
back of the utility vehicle
7. The logger assisted the sampler to carry and process samples
8. The logger walked behind the drill rig to the next hole (approximately 80 metres)
9. The sampler entered the utility vehicle and drives to the next hole
10. The sampler alighted the vehicle to repeat the task
Biomechanical Task Demands
The physical demands were determined to include repetitive lifting of 2kg sample bags at or above
shoulder height; repetitive bending below knee height, squatting, and crouching; repetitive forearm
pronation and supination; and repetitive wrist flexion, extension and deviation. In the analysis of a 2007
campaign, it was determined that the sampler was required to bend and reach below knee height at least
207,900 times in their 5 months’ of work. Additional hazards included fatigue while working in hot and
humid conditions over long shifts with high production demands; hypo-hydration; exposure to trip
hazards with the bags on the ground and work across uneven terrain; exposure to sun, wind, and
outdoor elements; and vehicle collision zones while working near a drill rig (Wakeling, 2013). The
cumulative risk for musculoskeletal disorder to the low back and lower limbs was determined to be high.
There was risk, also, for poor visibility of the drill rig and thus collision or contact injury particularly
during the high-risk activity of the rod changing activities. Despite a 6m exclusion “red zone”, the
geology team admitted that complacency may set in at the end of a work shift and the team may be less
cognizant and compliant with these behavioural requirements.
Resource Commitment & Work Flow Process
The local work teams agreed to target this task for redesign. However, a compelling case was required to
be brought forward by the participative ergonomics (PE) program coordinator to confirm management
support. The risk assessment report was used to advocate the position for change. The initial
consultative, simulated, risk-based task assessment occurred late November 2013. During the 2014
campaign season, the work teams wanted to further assess whether there was a need to screen
individuals performing the work or if, systematically, they believed the work task design may be a
precipitator and cause of workplace injury. In 2013 and 2014, approximately 3 – 4 injury or early
intervention reports were received with request for onsite physiotherapy management. In these seasons,
approximately 25,000 to 40,000 samples were taken.
Agreement to commit resource to the project was received in May 2015. The redesign project
implementation, following an iterative and participative design process was trialed in 2015 and
completed late November 2015. This included conclusion of a final assessment of control intervention,
job safety analysis, and risk re-assessment released to the business. The design brief included the need to
view at least 20 samples (5 to 6 m length of work area) to assure quality control.
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
The resulting design was a custom utility vehicle side tray with an embedded, extendable, work bench to
eliminate the work on the ground. The fabrication occurred on-site by local fitters/mechanics. Refer to
Figures 4 and 5 for the before and after work task redesign.
The ergonomics program coordinator reported that, on average, most projects took 12 – 18 months for
hazard identification through to redesign and release. He reported, also, that the iterative design process
meant that a number of stumbling blocks or clumsy design variations often occurred along the way
before accomplishing a finished product that may be deemed satisfactory to a wide range of vested
stakeholders (e.g. operators/users, maintainers, safety and risk managers, procurement teams, and
operations managers). For example, before evolving to an extendable work bench, the early design ideas
included a drop-down, three-layered, hinged side tray bench with handles but they found that the
repetitive reach to high handles, lifting and lowering was a potential hazard and source of frustration to
the workers.
Outcomes Achieved
The geology team reported the value proposition of this good work design initiative in a number of ways:
a) Discomfort and injury reports decreased. Despite approximately 4 times more productivity (< 125,000
samples taken), there were no physiotherapy treatments sought in 2015 when the standing work bench
was used and this resulted in less downtime and improved morale; b) Quality control improved with the
longer bench space than when a shorter length bench was used in 2009 and the workers no longer felt the
need to bring product to the ground to work; c) A more efficient work flow that seemed to save time from
having multiple parties stoop to the ground to perform part of the work (note: microcycle task activities
have not been timed to permit detailed comparative metrics); an d) There were reduced risks for collision
or contact with the rod when it was changed with the improved visibility and utility vehicle as a barrier
to help isolate workers from the proximity of the air core driller.
Hand tying bags was also addressed and improved from the use of twine or string to the use of cable zip
ties. The team is currently reviewing automated tying devices, also.
Image courtesy of ErgoAnalyst
Figure 4:
Geological campaign sampling required repetitive bending below knee height, squatting,
and crouching to work on the ground
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Image courtesy of ErgoAnalyst
Figure 5:
A custom drop-side was designed with an embedded, extendable slide-tray work bench
to eliminate sustained work on the ground
Participative Ergonomics Design Approach
Elements of the design process were dissected according to the team involvement, the process
undertaken and the outcomes achieved (e.g. Vink et al, 2006). The detail of this is provided in Table 4
below. The outcomes were further analysed according to a spectrum model describing an occupational
perspective of health which provides for a continuum of doing-being-becoming-belonging (Wilcock,
2006). Refer to Figure 6 below.
PE Program
Design Project Review
Participatory Ergonomics Activities
Worker consultation: site visit
Task simulation
Worker empowerment to contribute to risk analysis and design
Hazard identified by geological sampling team
Designer involvement: workshops
Project Manager commitment
Safety team commitment
Ergonomics Coordinator involvement
Appreciative Enquiry: discover, dream, design, destiny
Training and education in health and risk
Hazard ID and report
Multiple visits to observe work as performed and control trials
Establish a PE review team
Design Approach
Understand and
specify context of
Specify User
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
PE Program
Design Project Review
Participatory Ergonomics Activities
Design Approach
Task analysis and risk assessment using ErgoAnalyst
Inventory of issues identified: MSDs, low productivity,
slip/trip/fall risk, fatigue, drill rig red zone hazard
Record and report
Selection of quality reporting tool
Communicate findings
Establish design philosophy (brief) and potential unwanted
Determine control intervention
Iterative design process
Trial design/control in natural environment
Evaluate control
Analyse project cost benefits
Communicate outcomes: internally & externally
Commend or reward workers: innovation award nomination
Develop task case-based library
Design objectives established according to:
Safety; Health; Comfort; Productivity
Specific objectives identified: e.g. eliminate work on ground,
reduce MSD risk ratings, increase productivity, contribute to
fatigue reduction, promote ease in operation with low
maintenance required for design
Control intervention (outcome) realistic and achievable
Control intervention fit for purpose: meets design objectives
Worker satisfaction with outcomes
Assure sustainable practice in the field
Evaluate the
Table 4: Process Review: Geological sampling bench design
Moderate Temporary Discomfort
Disability Injury
Comfort /
Condi- Social
Profittioning Connection ability
Figure 6:
Project evaluation according to an Occupational Perspective of Health
Health, Safe and Productive by Design. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Conference of the Human Factors and
Ergonomics Society of Australia. 6-9 November, Gold Coast, Queensland.
Retrospective and formative review was undertaken of an organisation that has achieved significant
gains in lead and lag industry indicators through persistent good work design. The process proved a
valuable exercise in learning about how the organisation has achieved, and continues to achieve, such
success. The language used by representatives to describe the program suggested high levels of cultural
commitment. Practices were well embedded in safety initiatives and operational planning.
Opportunities were discovered and these included the potential to profile ergonomics in business
improvement studies and include more cost analysis of productivity gains and efficiency gains associated
with projects.
Thank you to the management and staff for Rio Tinto Weipa for their participation and disclosures for
this project. Thank you, also, to ErgoEnterprises for authorization to use and display the ErgoAnalyst
participatory ergonomics software for case study illustration.
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