Towsey is chief operating officer (COO) for Citigold Corporation , which runs the Charters Towers Gold Project, Australia’s richest major goldfield.
“If you look at the personalities of mine workers, you find they are generally not at all risk averse,” he says.
“This is borne out by the kind of hobbies they are into, like sky diving, shooting, drag racing and trail bike riding.
“Given this kind of attitude, it is managements’ responsibility to ensure there is a psychological focus in mine safety programs.”
Towsey is a key speaker at MineHaul 2007, to be held in Perth on 26 to 28 March. His topic is: ‘Safe people: how personality plays a part in individual and organisational safety’.
“When a risk taking attitude is part of your make-up, you don’t see risk as a problem in your day-to-day life,” he says.
“Unfortunately many safety programs tend to focus on technical systems, and many managers treat mining safety as a ‘project’ to be delivered on time and within budget.
“However, mine safety is a never-ending process of continuous improvement, and we need to move away from mechanical systems to psychological processes.”
Towsey says research shows that generally after the age of 25, male mine workers’ attitudes to risk changes. This is because by then many of them are married and becoming parents.
“They tend to then take into the workplace a more risk-averse attitude – one they have developed in caring for their family. We need to promote this attitude of looking after others in the workplace.
“Women also tend to be risk-averse. Unfortunately, the mining industry is 80% dominated by males.
“Even in the general working population, a higher proportion of men (per thousand workers) are injured at work than women.”