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Aids and barriers to improving OSH performance improvements in South African mines
  1. L C Austin*,
  2. G Butte,
  3. S Thorne,
  4. J Stewart
  1. Correspondence Politics and Philosophy Department, Copenhagen Business School Management, Porceleanshaven 18A, Frederiksberg 2000, Denmark


Despite much investment and effort in technology transfer as a primary means of improving occupational safety and health (OSH) performance in South African mines, sustained progress toward zero harm has been unsatisfactory. In 2005, a South Africa Chamber of Mines task force called for developing an approach – appropriate to the South Africa mining context – that could be used to facilitate sustained improvement of OSH performance. The first step was to understand aids and barriers to accomplishing improvement. We used a mental models research method to elicit mining managers beliefs and underlying rational about aids and barriers to OSH performance improvement through introduction of new technology and leading practice. This involved creating an expert model – an influence diagram showing factors industry leaders believe affect performance improvement; conducting in-depth, mental models interviews with 31 managers with various OSH responsibilities in six companies representing gold, platinum and coal-mining sectors; and, coding interviews against the expert model. While industry leaders focused on technology transfer issues, interview results identified the importance of leadership behaviour as a primary aid to OSH improvement. Our key finding is that it is about adoption, not technology transfer. Successful adoption of leading practices is dependent on leadership behaviour, commitment and communication to facilitate eager adoption of technology and leading practice, rather than to facilitate reluctant acceptance of imposed technology transfer. These findings and other research inputs were used to create a unique and pioneering Adoption System initiative currently producing significant improvements in OSH performance in South African mining.

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