Dr. Rebecca Allen
Researcher, School of Psychology, The University of Newcastle
Coal mining has been internationally recognised as a high-risk industry with high fatality rates in comparison to other occupations. Within the Australian coal mining industry, the level of occupational risk has been identified as 70% higher than the national average. The present study undertook an exploratory investigation of the causes of risk-taking among Australian coal miners. The study is the first to use a longitudinal approach to investigate the association between safety culture and risk-taking among Australian coal miners.
This approach allows clearer conclusions about the causal relations between variables. Data was collected via repeat survey from a sample of 233 open-cut and underground coal miners from New South Wales and Queensland. Perceived safety norms were found to be a significant longitudinal predictor of reported frequency of risk-taking. Miners who perceived it to be normal for miners at their mine site to ignore safety procedures and take risks were more likely to report taking safety risks in the future. This finding suggests that poor safety norms cause subsequent increases in risk-taking behaviour. Safety interventions are considered, focusing on improving perceived safety norms to potentially reduce risk-taking.