‘She’ll be Right Mate’ – Culture and Safety
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While improvements in occupational health and safety (OHS) in the mining industry have decreased fatalities and accidents, little attention has been paid to the cultural confound of ‘safety’ in the increasingly multicultural mining industry. Occupational health and safety processes often contain assumptions of cultural understanding that may not be shared or understood by mining employees. There are potentially dangerous and costly implications of cultural difference in the mining environment. Some people have been enculturated with high levels of anxiety concerning catastrophe and uncertainty while others have a more laissez faire attitude to accidents and disaster. The level of cultural anxiety about uncertainty can be a major factor in the acceptance of OHS processes. OHSmanuals based on a comprehensive set of rules and procedures may assume that the authority of ‘rules’ is shared by all employees regardless of a variety of cultural understandings when this may not be the case.Similarly, cross-cultural employees may not share a background or acceptance of expensive technological innovation and so resist/avoid the application of new safety equipment. Then too, OHS staff may not realise the significance of religious belief or personal responsibility on employees’ attitudes to safety in the workplace environment. A lack of consideration of these cultural elements could have fatal and expensive results. This paper explores the impact of cultural difference in the understanding of OHS in the Mining Industry, presents a model to improve the understanding of the cultural confound in safety, improves analysis of OHS in practical multicultural situations, provides assistance for those involved in OHS training and may become a basis for developing OHS policy and procedure.
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