Date of Award

1-1-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Miles Nedved

Abstract

Many organisations now strive to achieve excellence in various aspects of occupational health and safety. Benchmarking of the techniques and approaches of other organisations is becoming a popular way of bridging gaps and seeking to achieve high levels of performance. There exist many sources of guidance in the form of external and internal standards, regulations, codes of practice, publications by professional institutions and similar. However, there are clear shortfalls in terms of tools and processes needed to identify areas of opportunity and to overcome barriers to the efficient transfer of ideas and techniques from one enterprise to another. This is true for all organisations, but particularly so for small/medium sized facilities with limited resources and expertise. This study has sought to develop and test new tools and processes to make benchmarking activity and the transfer of technology, ideas and approaches more efficient and meaningful. It has drawn heavily from state-of-the-art management theory and has sought to establish the linkage between the people factor, the workplace environment factor and the organisation of work factor as they contribute to workplace health and safety performance. It has used qualitative inquiry methodologies and an approach based on personal contact and insight, as expressed by Patton (1990, p. 46), to generate data. The fieldwork component of the study was conducted at eight mining, mineral processing and related industry sites within Western Australia. The subject of the study was the facility's processes and practices in regard to the management of hazardous materials. This was chosen partly because chemical-induced injury and disease remain a significant problem for workers in industry (Winder, 1999b, p. 168) and partly because of its complexity and degree of difficulty. Data collection was based on the three qualitative inquiry methods, namely in-depth, open-ended interviews with the Site Manager and the Site Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Professional, direct observation and review of written documents. Also tested was the assumption that if the materials developed during the study can be applied successfully in the area of hazardous materials, then other less complex areas under the OHS umbrella could be approached with confidence. There is potential for the tools and processes developed and evaluated in this work to be used widely in the transfer of best practice, that is, to be deployed beyond the hazardous substances focus of this study and beyond the Mining Industry of Western Australia. Study outcomes and the new materials that have been generated will assist with the selection of benchmarking partners and will help to identify "pockets of excellence" for focused attention. This will encourage and assist organisations to take steps towards identifying and implementing Industry best practice in the element of interest. There is potential for study outcomes to impact positively on OHS practices within many organisations - and thereby to reduce the personal and societal cost of injury and illness outcomes associated with the use of hazardous materials at work.

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