The recent Presidential Mine Safety Audit has caused a ruckus on the wires for reporting that compliance with safety legislation in the South African mining industry is a mere 66%.
We find this interesting in light of our just-released narrative research with Deloitte into the state of mine safety in the country. Our report (click here to download) highlighted the evident gap between the complex nature of the problems facing mine safety and the ordered solutions being utilized to address these problems. One of the concerning patterns we found was what we called an “over-focus on compliance”. In light of the Audit’s findings one may argue that there is clearly not enough focus on compliance. Well, we would agree and disagree. Here’s why … The over-focus we identified relates to how the industry sees compliance as the overall solution to mine safety. This belief is so entrenched and pervasive that we believe it is potentially shifting mine safety into a state of chaos.
Don’t get me wrong! Compliance is vital. The Audit report simply highlights what we have found – that South Africans are generally a non-compliant society (assess your own regard for traffic regulations when evaluating this statement).
We foresee a knee-jerk reaction to the Audit report that will throw more regulations at compliance in an attempt to improve the statistics. This may work to the extent that certain areas of mine safety require greater regulation, but we know that regulation of compliance is only part of the problem – compliance is inherently a complex problem with its own patterns of behaviour, feedback loops and dynamics.
We would encourage mine management to probe the problem of compliance more deeply than before and in a manner that exposes the undercurrents of non-compliance. Narrative research is one such technique able to expose the patterns within a truly complex problem.