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Kanaparo, P. B. (2008). Management of Occupational Health and Safety in Papua New Guinea Mining: With Special Reference to Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir Gold Mines, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 16(1), 104-121.

Management of Occupational Health and Safety in Papua New Guinea Mining: With Special Reference to Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir Gold Mines

Petere Balone Kanaparo


Occupational Health and Safety (OH & S) is a topic of considerable relevance for the Papua New Guinea (PNG) mining industry. The unique environments in which PNG mining operates has confronted the industry with particular dilemmas that have attracted a range of investments to mitigate the problems associated with OH & S. This paper discusses OH & S management in the PNG mining industry with specific case studies of Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir gold mines. The content deals with the designing of effective OH & S regulations and policies that can benefit all mining industries through the provision of examples of practical innovative ideas on managing OH & S at three mining companies. Caught in the political obligatory aspects of meeting the ever present government regulations, and competing for best practice are dynamics this paper analyses and in doing so highlights some progress made by Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir gold mines. This paper also discusses the OH & S policies and practices in official and unofficial courts representing a series of expanding circles to which the implications and consequences belong. In doing so this paper highlights the forsaken areas for both academic and applied studies from global and local perspectives in the PNG mining Industries. The latter sections articulate the relevance of the information provides by the three case studies in the wider context of OH & S. A final conclusion promotes a perspective that a great deal more investment will be required by all stakeholders.


A major challenge for the mining companies, which are operating in PNG, is how to effectually administer OH & S. One substantial contributing feature, that heightens this conundrum, is the geographical magnitudes of isolation and remoteness of the mine sites. Ramachandran (2004) and Crispin (2006) stressed that these two dominant elements contribute to complexities that are associated with minimising levels of risk in the mining operations as well as addressing the serious difficulties with ensuring the physical and psychological welfare of those associated with the mining sector. Consequently, human resource management practitioners, of the mining companies in particular, have the onerous responsibility of presenting notions, ideals and concepts to delineate how these organisations should respond to provide congenial work environments for the benefit of all stakeholders (Dannies & Randall 2004, Eddington 2005).

Isolation and remoteness of the mine sites is foundation for insulation from and neglection by outsiders. These circumstances are likely to lead to disturbing states. For instance, the evaluation of OH & S in PNG mines has seldom attracted rigorous research interest that has potential to give credible disclosures and useful relevant information. Possibly, the appropriate authorities (government, OH & S consultants) have not gone to the sites to conduct indepth physical inspections in order to make incisive recommendations because these personnel believed the areas of operation were too primitive, there was a prevalence of infectious diseases in the region or because there were long distances to travel (Eddington 2006, Gratton 2007). An alternative scenario is the government departments and the managements of the mining companies may prefer not to disclose to the wider community the OH & S practices, and hence, do not encourage visitors. Indeed, isolation and remoteness puts the mining operations ‘out of sight’ and ‘out of mind’ from external interference. Consequently, Huselid (2006) and Kalinoe (2007) precisely stated that OH & S in the mining industry has so far been a neglected area for both scholarly and applied studies.

Bureaucratic practices provide underpinning for a third reason for a lack of guiding prescription how to administer OH & S in PNG mines. The extensive and complex nature of the institutional and regulatory frameworks is excessive and restrictive (Kalinoe & Mellam 1997, Kalinoe 2007). Although mining managements could claim inspection and recording of mine practices was likely to disclose sensitive knowledge of considerable economic value to competitors a more comprehensive approach that delineates how to deal with the serious implications of OH & S is long overdue (Huselid 2006, Gratton 2007).

This paper provides an overview of the OH & S management in the PNG mining industry. The available evidence on the nature and extent of OH & S performance is considered. In addition, the origins of changing public perceptions about OH & S issues in the PNG mining industry are also revealed in the form of material provided by observation, administrative records, company reports and interviews with interested parties. Finally, the paper draws attention to the investments that have been undertaken by the three identified PNG mining companies, and indicates how an integrative and participative approach to OH & S has potential to devise and implement more effective management practices.

OH & S Issues: A Global Perspective

Recently, the topic of OH & S has attracted a great deal of attention. The most recent work (Kalinoe & Mellam 1997, Parisi & Downs 2004, Eddington 2005, Crispin 2007, Kalinoe 2007) tends to be psychological and regulatory in its perspective, and focuses on explaining the psychological and legal impact, and the associated changes that have come about as a result of mining in some of the most isolated areas of PNG. Other authors, such as Nankervis, Compton and McCarthy (1993); Mellam and Espnes (2003); Ramachandran (2004) as well as Losey, Meisinger and Ulrich (2005; the Divine Word University (DWU) (2007); and Crispin (2007) have also commented that OH & S has been highlighted in the diverse arenas of comprehensive legislation and psychological testing. This literature has embraced a wide spectrum from organisations in Australia, the United Kingdom as well as PNG. Furthermore, the material has impinged upon topics like the cost of accidents and health (both physical and psychological) in terms of their occurrence at work, linked medical expenditures, effects of lost time, in addition to rehabilitation and workers’ compensation payments. The indicative lineage of concern for OH & S in PNG is revealed through the Industrial Safety, Health and Welfare Act, 1961. This legislation has encouraged the management of various companies, through policy and associated documentation, to install programmes that create awareness about the issues of OH & S (stress, dangerous chemicals, job risks and injury) among employees (Mellam & Espnes 2003).

In spite of OH & S induction programmes, which are designed to create climates of safer working habits, these initiatives have not been widely diffused. Indeed, since the establishment of the Industrial Safety, Health and Welfare Act, 1961 the PNG government and the mining companies cannot claim to have substantially improved the welfare of their employees. In fact, often it has been the employees themselves who have notified and acquainted the appropriate authorities to take remedial actions (DWU 2007). Nevertheless, the enthusiasm for effective management of OH & S in the mining industry has been echoed by employees at the workplace.

OH & S is a pervading element of contemporary human resource management. In fact, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO ’s) Occupational Health Services Recommendation, 1959 (No. 112) covers the scope of occupational health services including personnel policy, medical services, occupational hazards at the work place, training, health of employees, collaboration with external services and the like (Sharma 2002). Such material provides foundation for the design of effective and efficient OH & S regulations and policies by human resource managers that can benefit all departments of various organisations, and particularly the mining industry. And from a wider base recent writings (Health and Safety Executives 1995, Industry Commission 1995, Walters 1996, Sharma 2002, Mellam & Espnes 2003, Ramachandran 2004, Losey, et al. 2005) on regulatory, policy and OH & S management reforms more commonly focus on those large, sophisticated mining industries that are ready, willing and able to go ‘beyond compliance’ with existing policy, OH & S management strategy, and legislation. Yet, ‘best practice’ firms represent only the tip of the OH & S iceberg. Indeed, a sizable group of constituents, within the mining community, either through choice or of necessity, fall substantially below the documented standard (Hofmeister 2007). Within this category are many small and medium sized mining industries like the Ramu Nickel and Tolukuma Gold Mines in Madang and the Central Provinces in PNG, which lack the resources, sophistication and motivation to attain minimum, well managed strategic standards (Hess 2001).

OH & S concerns the physical and psychological conditions of an organisation’s workforce that result from the work environment provided by the organisation (Kramar, McGraw & Schuler 1997). This aspect refers to the promotion and maintenance of the physical and psychological well being of workers, and the prevention of any departure from this goal. Thus, it seeks to prevent accidents and diseases by ensuring workplaces are free from hazardous conditions (Marshall 1982). If an organisation takes effective health and safety measures seriously, fewer of its employees are likely to have short term or long term ill effects as a result of being employed by that organisation. Adverse physiological conditions include occupational disease and accidents including loss of life. Psychological conditions refer to anxiety, organisational stress and low quality of working life. These constructs encompass dissatisfaction, apathy and forgetfulness, confusion about roles and duties, or mistrust of others (Mathis & Jackson 1988).

New demands are shaping not only the amount of education and training addressed to OH & S, but also the nature of such education. The complexity of modern work systems and the rapidity of change in the workplace, require the emergency of a new breed of health and safety officers, consultants, and advisers, whose role is not simply restricted to fairly crude safety promotion and ‘accident’ investigation. Such people require not only professional expertise and recognition, but also a more sophisticated understanding of the origins of occupational injury and disease, and the multitude of factors to be considered in eliminating or, at least minimising, such problems (Lihir Profile 2001).

The extent of OH & S dilemmas in the mining areas is one of a series of pressures for changes in safety consciousness and prevention procedures, work reorganisation, and rehabilitation. Community pressures, especially concerning the trailing of wastes, transportation and distribution of hazardous substances, union involvement, and government legislation, ensures that such attention continues (Nankervis, et al. 1999, Eddington 2006). Thus, in the high risk mining industries, a strategic human resource management approach to OH & S would focus on the common causes and trends of site accidents and injuries, assess the associated costs, associated human and financial dimensions, and develop appropriate preventative work systems or more effective administrative and psychoanalytic programmes. These initiatives would usually involve consultation with line managers, workplace committees, employees and their unions. In the public and mission institutions, where minor cuts and burns are commonplace, precautionary measures may be implemented, at minimal cost, to enhance employee morale and organisational productivity (Gliselli 1973, Zhao 1996).

Arguably, achieving improved operational performance for global markets could lie in encouraging OH & S self audits. These mechanisms, while far less comprehensive than a full systems based approach, are nevertheless, very valuable in encouraging self regulation, in alerting enterprises to OH & S problems, and in prompting corrective action. And government can play an important role in providing relevant resources to enable firms to audit themselves, and in successful events to reward and recognise the achievements. For example, the Division of Workplace Health and Safety provides audits, documents and other necessary help, but advice is absent in most of the organisations in PNG. However, in Queensland in Australia the Division of Workplace Health and Safety provides audit documents that enable enterprises to self audit, and to illustrate how risks can be identified and controlled, thereby encouraging all organisations to take greater internal responsibility for risk management (Nankervis, et al. 1999, Eddington 2006). Similarly, another example is the Victorian Safety MAP, developed by the Health and Safety Organisation. This involvement is designed to provide a framework to facilitate continuous improvement in OH & S, and includes self audit as one of its core components (Edward 1986, Hofmeister 2007). Clearly, there are models that the PNG mining sector could integrate into their human resources management policies and practices.

Overview of OH & S Performance in PNG Mining

Mining industries in PNG are in remote locations, with diverse operations, and often devoid of civil infrastructure support. And the potential for an accident occurring is ever present, especially in the operations of surface and underground mines that use manual labour, heavy plant, sophisticated equipment, explosives, chemicals, and aircraft in order to mine, refine, and process the ore bodies. Consequently, there is appeal for those who have a pecuniary stake in the OH & S problems to give constructive leadership.

The contextual dimensions of the mining operations have a propensity to manifest commonplace operational irregularities to the level of a crisis. Understandably, the PNG mining industry has established an emergency response infrastructure with the main emphases being placed on the moral and legal obligations of the companies towards preservation of life, prevention of property damage, and business interruption within the mining fraternity. At a pragmatic level these perspectives translate as several emergency response teams with full time trainers. Training has been endorsed on the premise that the technical training of staff and contractors (particularly in the safe and correct use of equipment) is likely to generate safety culture mindsets in all stakeholders. The teams are from 1) Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OT ML), 2) Porgera Gold Mine or Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) and 3) Lihir Gold Limited (LGL). These teams are made up of skilled professionals who continually commit time to practice and training for a variety of situations, which may arise. All teams are on 24 hours standby. The benefits of establishing an emergency response infrastructure within Ok Tedi, Porgera and Lihir mines have been documented (Eddington 2006, DWU 2007).

Ok Tedi Mining Limited

The OH & S clock at the Ok Tedi mine (OT ML) inpit has a fascinating rhythm that in most cases the workforce with confidence reaches their script without a Lost Time Injury (LTI ). During 1999 the miners confidently broke the two million hour mark exclusive of a LTI as they had clocked one million man hours without a LTI just before 1997. The management and workers at the mine have embodied the OT ML motto; Safety is the priority. More hard work is needed to maintain the enviable record with supervisors following up on accident/incident reports, and employees identifying and fixing, and reporting all hazards on the job. Consequently, the operating excellence programme of OT ML has continued to create progressive improvements and has returned quantifiable benefits to the company. But there is a foreground to this scenario.

In 2002, OT ML took a new approach to safety. This venture combined safety and risk management analysis to create the safest possible workplace for all employees. The framework includes the operations units, the ground staff at the airport, those working in the offices downtown in Tabubil, and other OT ML offices within and out of the country. Impressively, OT ML reached another strategic achievement. At the end of December 2002, OT ML Company wide had accrued more than 3.75 million man hours without a LTI , which was a record achievement for the company. At December 2002, the mine operations had exceeded three million man hours, or 879 days, without a LTI , exceeding the 1999 one million man hours without a LTI (Tok Tedi 1997).

The achievements of OT ML are both timely and relevant. Unlike Misima and Porgera gold mines OT ML’s strategic safety systems goals revolve around the continual development of a ‘zero harm’ safety culture that is strongly reinforced by the ‘Take Five for Safety’ process. This process enables all employees to assess and prevent risks before any job is undertaken. Perhaps the most important context in which regulatory policy must be designed is that of regulatory resources that are severely limited and that are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. For example, OT ML revised its Contractor Safety Management Plan to achieve new levels of contractor safety performance, underpinned by a process of involvement, ongoing compliance audit requirements, and advisory assistance from the OT ML safety practitioners’ team. A salient achievement in 2002 was when OT ML sustained a ‘four star’ (out of five) rating from the National OH & S Association (NO SA), a worldwide programme of safety audits. And OT ML’s internal safety audits produced an 81.6 per cent rating, which equates to a ‘four star’ NO SA rating. In the same year, for risk management, OT ML conducted the groundwork to implement a site wide risk management system that is geared towards identifying all forms of safety, environment and business risk (Tok Tedi 2002).

Risk management is an integral part of sound management practice and fundamental to achieving company objectives. It is an iterative process consisting of steps, which when undertaken in sequence, enable continual improvement in decision making. OT ML is establishing best practice procedures for risk management that are appropriate to the mining and other related industries. The risk management system is consistent and coherent with the OT ML Agreement, NOSA Standard, the OT ML Corporate Safety and Environmental Strategy, PNG Regulations as well as Australia and New Zealand Standards.

New measures for OH & S issues were strategically formulated to fit into the current OT ML’s operation. In 2002, OT ML’s Quality Assurance and Quality Control Team worked towards implementing a Quality Management System for the technical data stream based on the sophisticated technical standards (Nankervis, et al. 1999), to minimise risk and identify possible risk areas. The system has been specifically designed to ensure the continuous improvement of the technical data stream leading to improved decisions with OT ML. The company launched a new ore optimisation mine plan during 2002 that increases the reserve capable of being mined by including areas previously omitted. An ore control programme, which ensures the best throughput and recovery of metal will be obtained out of any given material, continued successfully throughout the year. OT ML’s technological advances included using the latest version of Vulcan geologic modelling software, which provides the users with a three dimensional view of the ore body, increasing work accuracy and risk redundancy (Tok Tedi 2002).

The historical accounts that have been reported reveal that there may be a substantial gap in terms of OH & S outcomes between the years before and after 1999. In fact, the evidence demonstrates productive innovations increased, making significant contributions towards the OT ML’s OH & S management. This strategy involved using the weaknesses in the previous OH & S management policies and past regulations as a ladder or stepping stone. The innovative stream that OT ML is enjoying contrasts with Porgera, Misima and Lihir, who have their own exceptional ways of managing OH & S.

Porgera Gold Mine’s Exceptional OH & S Management

Like Ok Tedi Mining Limited, Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) also gives first priority to its workforce, where they have the understanding of ‘safety first’. With this knowledge, PJV provides safe and healthy working conditions, develops, maintains, and promotes safe and productive work practices in all aspects of the business to comply with all OH & S laws and regulations governing mining activities. The management of PJV claim the safety and health of its employees to be of utmost important in the efficient conduct of business, and believes each employee, has a shared responsibility in the promotion of health and safety in the workplace.

PJV achieved yet another OH & S milestone when it recorded 50 days without a serious injury on 21st February 2003. This achievement is more than double the previous record of 21 days, and equates to around 880,000 man hours, about seven days short of reaching the 1 million hours mark (Ipili Wai Pii 2003). However, in October 2000 PJV went even further when the company surpassed the previous record best record of 175 days or 3,240,000 man hours (devoid of a lost time accident), and is now aiming for its next target of 4 million man hours. In recognition of its previous excellent safety record, which was achieved late in 1999, PJV was awarded the Placer Dome Incorporations President’s Award for ‘Leadership and Excellence in Safety’. The President’s Awards are awarded annually in three areas: leadership and excellence in environmental performance; sustainability; and safety. Excellence in these three areas is a key value to Placer Dome, and especially PJV (Ipili Wai Pii 2000).

PJV received the award for a consistent low LTI frequency and for achieving three million man hours before incurring a LTI . This was a remarkable achievement given the size of the operational complexity, the geographical setting, and the climatic conditions of the PJV enterprise. Arguably, the success enjoyed by PJV was a result of commitment to integrate OH & S into all aspects of the business. From a base year of 2000, when the LTI frequency was a scant 0.10, a figure that has decreased considerably with time, PJV is now actively helping to educate the community on personal health and safety. Furthermore, the company has demonstrated a willingness to respond to major emergencies anywhere in PNG. A further achievement occurred in 1998 when PJV was awarded the ‘special safety recognition’ award, which in 2000 went to Bald Mountain mine in Australia (Taila 2000).

Understandably, there have been aberrations in the pursuit of obtaining benchmark excellence in the realm of LTI . Specifically, the ambition of reaching the gargantuan milestone of seven million man hours or one year without a LTI ended on 11 th March 2000 when a LTI occurred. Previously, PJV had reached 338 days or 6,503,502 man hours without a LTI , breaking its previous highest record of 175 days, when an incident occurred at the SAG Mill. This incident occurred when an expatriate shift supervisor suffered an injury to his left leg when his foot pushed through a worn section of the slurry discharge trammel screen, resulting in him falling into the hole and injuring his leg. At the time of the incident, the company was only 26 days or 496,493 man hours away from reaching seven million man hours, and furthermore, only 27 days short of reaching one year without a LTI . But March 2000 turned out to be a shocking month for PJV when 12 days later on March 23rd, another LTI occurred at the dozer shop. A national employee jammed two of his right fingers while attempting to fit track assembly to a D10N dozer. He was guiding the track, whilst it was being repositioned by a hoist, when the track chain closed up and crushed his fingers between the dozer plates (Ipili Wai Pii 2001). All these incidents prompted management to send a site wide encouragement to all employees to use the proper work procedures and practices in the workplace.

OH & S Policies of PJV

PJV maintains some of most firmly organised OH & S policies to govern their workforce. Unlike other mining industries, PJV has three fundamental principles.

In accordance with PJV’s OH & S policy, management recognises that the personal commitment and involvement of all employees are essential to establish and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Responsibility rests with all employees to ensure that they not only carry out their work in a safe and efficient manner, but they should also consider the safety of their fellow employees. All new employees undergo a PJV site safety induction training, conducted by the department of Lost Control, prior to commencing any type of duties in the workplace. These training sessions are conducted several times per week, as determined by the Lost Control Superintendent, in consultation with the Human Resource Administrator. New employees are also required to make themselves familiar with the relevant parts of the general safety instructions in the PJV Lost Control Manual. A more embracing dimension of the manual is that employees have the right to refuse unsafe or environmentally damaging work. Indeed, any employee or contractor may refuse to do any work where they have reason to believe that there exists a real danger to their health or safety. Employees or contractors are encouraged to first discuss the situation with their immediate supervisor, whose duty it is to investigate and eliminate any perceived work related problems (Placer Dome 1998).

The PJV’s OH & S policy has several perceived benefits. The dominant features include; 1) improved employee motivation to work safely through positive reinforcement of good policies and regulations, 2) reduction of OH & S problems through reinforcement of risk or hazardous zones, 3) reduced worker compensation cost, and 4) positive publicity and community recognition. These benefits are likely to manifest through the continuous improvements of programmes by means of internal and external review. Despite these strategic policies improved benefits have been somewhat slow, and more disturbing is that PJV is yet to develop newer or innovative ideas for the effective management of OH & S. Interestingly, the OH & S management strategy endorsed by PJV is closely aligned with those of Misima and Lihir gold mines.

Lihir Gold Limited OH & S Management

A salient priority of Lihir Gold Limited (LGL) is the safety of employees, contractors, visitors and neighbours. Indeed, LGL management rigorously enforces a comprehensive safety management system called Lihirsafe, and continuously reviews company practices to ensure that these regulations closely reflect current best practice standards in OH & S. A measure that is used for Lihirsafe is the Lost Time Incident Frequency Rate (LTI FR), which reflects a person’s inability to return to normal work duties the following shift. For example, there were five LTI s during the quarter of 2001, giving a 12 month rolling LTI FR of 0.46 per 200,000 hours. A main aim of LGL management is to continually decrease lost time due to injuries by targeting unsafe conditions and procedures throughout the site. Lihirsafe, which aims to minimise risks and improve job safety, is annually audited against the five star NOSA safety rating system. As at July 2001, LGL had a three star rating, and ongoing efforts were being made to further improve this ranking.

Another important measure of LGL’s safety management efforts are the LTI Severity Rate (LTI SR). If an employee or contractor is injured and cannot return to normal duties on the next shift then it is considered to be a LTI (Lihir Profile 2001). The 12 month rolling average (as at June 2001) was 0.27 (per 200,000 hours).

The safety performance of LGL continues to compare favourably with other mining companies internationally. Initiatives such as the Job Safety Observation System help to achieve this goal (Quarterly Report 2001). At the 2001 NO SA Safety Excellence Awards in Brisbane, the Company was awarded the best Three Star Metal Mine. In addition, LGL retained its three star NO SA safety rating, with an increased effort rating from 68.8 per cent to 72.7 per cent. However, the safety performance of LGL, as measured by its LTI’s, was less commendable when compared with the company’s previous performance. Measures have been implemented to ensure LGL’s excellent safety record is restored to better than previous levels (LGL’s Annual Report 2001). Indeed, LGL is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees, contractors and visitors. The company has a strong cultural belief that all work related injuries and illnesses are preventable. Based on this belief, their immeasurable vision concerning OH & S is relatively straightforward as demonstrated by the slogan No injuries to anyone, ever (Pundari 2003a). Consequently, LGL has a number of pre eminently strategic approaches that are designed to safeguard the well being of all stakeholders. In outline the expectations of LGL in terms of healthy OH & S are identified.

A hallmark of the LGL strategy for benchmarking OH & S is self determination. In practice all stakeholders are encouraged to identify opportunities for continuous improvement and promote the active participation of all employees and contractors in the Lihir safety programme (Production and Exploration Report 2001). The OH & S of people working, visiting, or living near the mine site, is of paramount importance to LGL, and considerable efforts have been made to protect these people from unacceptable risk. The safety performance record of LGL is among the best within the Rio Tinto Group, yet having identified areas for further improvement, the LGL management believes the company can do even better. Interestingly, their approach is not to allocate blame, but to identify the cause of accidents so that further irregularities can be attenuated. As part of any good philosophy of continuous improvement, LGL management believes that all work related injuries and illnesses are preventable, and OH & S must always be an integral component of all job related activities.

Areas that were addressed or reinforced over the few years include improved safety training and reporting of incidents. A new data collection system was introduced that has ‘closed the loop’ on safety actions. This function was installed to keep track of the status of the safety actions that were raised from safety investigations, job analysis, hazard inspections, and other factors that impinge on OH & S to ensure the investigations were completed to an acceptable standard and time frame (Pundari 2003b). And during 2001 LGL experienced a number of milestones as shown by the accompanying list.

Despite having experienced past dilemmas and problems LGL management envisages a brighter future in terms of OH & S priorities. A prime objective of LGL management is to continually improve OH & S outcomes. The management believes that safety achievement starts with a comprehensive, quality health and safety management system, and this perspective provides a point of departure for further investment such as the Lihirsafe system. This initiative, which involves a combination of compliance with laws and regulations, training in safe working procedures, safety induction, hazard analysis and regular and timely communication, is targeted for expansion.

Occupational Health and Safety Laws in PNG

Within PNG, as indeed in most developing countries, the need for both direct and indirect intervention by the State in the area of OH & S has long been accepted. The institutional mechanisms established by the State for regulating occupational health play a significant role in designing the scope of occupational health and in setting behavioural limitations for various interest groups. With regard to the former it can be noted that activities such as the provision of a public health infrastructure, sponsoring research, and the compilation of injury and illness statistics critically affect our knowledge of occupational health risks (Wickkens 1992, Sauers 1993).

Now it is well over 10 years since the initial legislation, which was designed to protect the health and safety of workers, was passed in PNG. This was originally restricted to a particular OH & S regulatory system (such as Industrial Safety, Health and Welfare Act Chapter 173 – Revised Laws of PNG), and specific groups of workers (notably factory workers, seamen and others). The legislation grew by a process of ad hoc accretion as the various colonial or State parliaments responded, usually belatedly, to perceived needs. In 1991, the PNG OH & S Association was formed. But by “ …1992, there was a maze of legislation and regulations were passed …”, which not only contained inconsistencies, but still left many gaps in coverage concerning PNG mine industries (Kalinoe 1997:63).

Concerns over the fragmented nature of this legislation, a failure to keep up with a rapidly changing work environment, and reservations about the effectiveness of the punitive approach rooted within it, have led to a major overhaul of PNG OH & S laws especially, during the 1990s. Since there were no legislations on OH & S for mining industries, a reform was partly led by Professor Kalinoe, former Executive Dean of School of Law at UPNG. This recommended a rationalisation of existing legislation and greater emphasis on self regulation, including the facilitation of employer or employee collaboration in the regulation of an OH & S regime, was largely based on Industrial Safety, Health and Welfare Act Chapter 173 (Revised Laws of PNG). This was canvassed mainly for comparative purposes in terms of assessing the potential of the new legislation to strengthen OH & S in PNG (Zhao 1996, Kalinoe 1997, 2007).

Underpinning for the reforms of the 1990s was the seminal work of Robens. The work of Robens (1972) was based on a number of contentious judgments about the origins of occupational injury and disease, the mutuality of employer and employee interest in this area, and the value of punitive sanctions. By the 1990s the need to get both workers and their representative unions involved in the process of standard setting and enforcement was recognised, although in a limited fashion. While the legislation on OH & S in PNG has been influenced by Robens the legislative package adopted in Australia has varied from State to State. For example, some States, notably Victoria, South Australia, and, (to a lesser extent), Western Australia, have also been influenced by the Robens’ ideology. However, legislators in these mentioned Australian States sought to avoid at least some of the perceived weaknesses of the Robens’ approach, whereas, PNG incorporated all of them on a trial and error basis. A basic weakness of Robens’ approach was unevenly recording of injury database and imprecise identification of OH & S from various industries. In other States, notably Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales, the adopted legislative package has been less satisfactory because avenues for employee/union participation were restricted, and there is no mechanism for resolving disputes (Kramar, et al. 1997).

Perhaps, it is too early to make a definite judgment about whether recent legislative reforms will lead to significant improvements. From one spectrum, the changes have been associated with improvements in OH & S standards in the PNG mining industry, with more comprehensive coverage and increased employer and union interest in OH & S. On balance, it appears that the legislative formulations on OH & S in PNG mining industry represent an improvement over previous laws. However, the risk that they, like earlier laws, could become largely symbolic cannot be ignored. Among other things it is noted that even where judicial proceedings or official inquires were undertaken, there is a tendency for these to provide partial and distorted accounts of the origins of the incident under investigation, to limit the attribution of responsibility, and to minimise the penalties imposed. These difficulties are likely to be addressed as the PNG OH & S is progressed.

The question of how to provide for more effective enforcement of OH & S law, and the examination of why enforcement might fail in the future, has been the subject of considerable interest. A wide range of explanations for such problems has been identified. Some focus on macro factors, such as global economic considerations and prevailing priorities within industrial systems, others target micro factors in terms of judicial processes, and some are a combination of these two strands. While these matters cannot be easily reconciled, it would seem that enforcement would not be isolated from the political, economic, and social context within which it occurs. In this regard, it would seem to be important that the labour movement provides continuous pressure on the enforcement process, and that the legislative infrastructure should both legitimate and facilitate this. More thought needs to be given to the introduction of a more comprehensive array of authorisation associated with a regulated level of penalties. Consideration of these avenues may well assist the strategic approaches for OH & S management in PNG.

Management Approaches to OH & S

The management approaches to OH & S differ from private to public institutions. Ideally, the management of OH & S in PNG mining industries should be aimed at the absolute minimisation of illness and injury at work. However, as it is noted, there are a large number of competing explanations of occupational injury and illness, which suggest quite different strategies are needed for their minimisation in the mining industry. Most explanations focus upon unsafe individual behaviour and poor design of the physical working environment as the major causal variable.

Quinlan and Bohle (1995) identified four groups of management strategies. The first is broadly concerned with modification of the physical working environment, such as the provision of machine guarding or the containment of toxic substance. The second is concerned with the medical and biological condition of individual workers, and includes the screening, monitoring, and treatment strategies aimed at identifying workers who are susceptible to illness, and treating those who succumb to such misfortunes. The third group is concerned with changing workers’ behaviour and includes a variety of educational and behaviour modification strategies, based on expert models and management must, generally, enlist the services of specialist professionals to both plan and implement them. A fourth strategic consideration addresses broader organisational determinants of ill health and injury, and is concerned with the establishment of organisational structures to deal with health and safety issues. Huselid (2006) supports some of these structures facilitate genuine participation by workers in policy formulation and the implementation of management programs, an approach that is discouraged by the expert models employed in the first three groups of strategies (Armstrong 1991, Huselid 2006).

Table 1 presents a summary of the major strategic approaches in each of the four categories. The content of Table 1 shows how, why and when these strategic approaches can be implemented in a work setting are likely to minimise hazards in a physical working environment. It is indicated in the Table 1 that a number of OH & S interventions are aimed at altering the physical working environment in order to make it less hazardous. Many solutions provided by engineers, agronomists, and occupational hygienists, fall into this category (Quinlan & Bohle 1995). This helps OH & S officers and managers to formulate and implement good policies to minimise OH & S problems, and fosters best practices in the workplace. Occupational Health & Safety officers are likely to profit by analysing policy implications and implement innovative strategies for a mine to incorporate.

Table 1
Major OH & S Management Strategies
Environmental Modification and Monitoring Individual Screening and Monitoring Individual Behaviour Change Organisational Strategies
Hazard identification Pre employment examinations Health and safety education Workplace health and Safety committies
Engineering controls Return to work examinations Training Health surveys and audits
Ergonomic intervention Medical monitoring Behaviour modification Work reorganisation
Protective clothing and equipment Biological monitoring Administrative controls On-site health and safety centres
Environmental Monitoring Risk Assessment Stress Management Health Promotion

Note: Armstrong (1991) and Quinlan and Boyle (1995).

Policy Implications and Best Practices

The mining industry in PNG has strategically well developed policies that guide their employees in avoiding injury and illness. But, the pressing question is: ‘why are there still a lot of problems with OH & S in the PNG mining industry?’ The answer seems to lie in the conflicting nature of management objectives, which require a company to become more competitive and reduce costs whilst at the same time achieve, with government encouragement, best practice in OH & S.

In an industrial climate that promotes radical change in working arrangements, Ok Tedi is witnessing innovations, which would not have been considered previously. Employers and employees go through negotiating deals, which in many ways are only limited by the imagination of both parties. But in striving for higher levels of productivity, care needs to be taken that new agreements do not have an adverse effect upon OH & S management in the PNG mining industries. One such issue relates to shift work. In agreeing to extend shifts, sometimes for as long as 12 hours at a stretch, the question of fatigue and lack of sleep requires greater scrutiny. Such arguments might be established by the notion of Vigilance decrement a concept that is known to be linked to fatigue (Wickkens 1992, Mellam & Espnes 2003). Moreover, with workers already under pressure to increase output, managers could unintentionally be creating hazardous work situations.

Workforce diversity creates wide ranging issues for consideration. People with physical and mental disabilities, a multicultural workforce in which English is likely to be a second language, a more equal gender mix in areas previously dominated by men or women, and other factors such as gender preference, ethnicity, age and religion are widely acknowledged human resource management topics. In fact, there is considerable evidence that these issues attract the need for care and sensitivity in the workplace. Occasionally, these matters can have a substantial impact on work routines, hours in the workplace, types of communication, differing management styles and the design of work. In rethinking work to accommodate diversity, the requirement for a safe and healthy working environment should not be overlooked. As noted by Sauers (1993) and DWU (2007), one of the biggest challenges facing business managers is how to deal with an increasingly diverse workforce, which can be a major strength or weakness. The challenges faced by managers include; religion, disabled people, women in the operational areas/ fields, and homosexual people. All of these issues pose considerable challenges for those people who are responsible for satisfactory OH & S in the mining domain.

A current health issue being debated is the question of whether there should be mandatory testing for HIV/AI DS in the workplace. Arguments have been made that the working classes are at risk and compulsory testing should be a matter of course. This raises some interesting issues, such as the costs and infrastructure necessary for testing large numbers, whether it is practical, and the ethics of enforced testing. Edward (1986), Losey, et al. (2005) and Hofmeister (2007) emphasised these arguments missed the point and will not solve the problem of inadequate workplace practices. The real issue is how to prevent a high level of HIV/AI DS positives at the workplace in the first place. Having a code of practice giving sound advice on minimising the risk of getting HIV/AI DS and injuries through better workplace design, and the use of infection control procedures, which assume that all blood and body substances are infectious, is really the main issue (Creighton 1986, Brooks 1988). Huselid (2006) and Gratton (2007) stated that particular attention could be given to encouraging OH & S and self abstaining from any activities that could transmit HIV/AI DS. Individual(s) and organisations have commented that HIV/AI DS is a worldwide epidemic causing and adding more fuel to the OH & S problems that the mining industries face today. Leaders and organisations like Pope Benedikt XVI and the UN proclaimed that people in general and the ‘mine workers’ should abstain from sex, and promote the use of condom, respectively is probably a more contentious approach to the problem (Gratton 2007, Hofmeister 2007).

Strategies for Improving OH & S

A great deal of anecdotal evidence and surveillance at Porgera and Misima gold mines and various interviews with some workers from OT ML, LGL as well as Kutubu Oil was recorded. This field, evidence demonstrates that managers in the Mining and Petroleum industries are playing an extremely important role in providing a safe and healthy environment for their employees. The opportunities available for doing this has became more and more varied over time. Two of the most important OH & S programmes currently encouraged by managers are fitness plans and drug testing.

Fitness Programmes

The number of health and fitness programmes sponsored by corporations has increased over the past few years and continues to climb, depending upon in line with the emerging number of mining and petroleum industries in the country. One reason for these increases is the fact that OH & S especially, health promotion, has proven to be a cost effective organisational strategy. The key to building an effective organisational fitness programme is to follow some basic rules and regulations. First, employees must see something in it for them or their family. If employees see it as just another cost cutting tactic, they are unlikely to become responsive to the initiative. Perhaps, to make it appealing to employees, management might consider the avenue of offering incentives and rewards. Second, it must appeal to all employees; hence, management would be advised to ensure the program on offer is varied and enjoyable to the participants. Finally, any workplace environment will need to reflect the company’s goals (e.g., a healthy and safe environment means that smoking is banned in the workplace, that the cafeteria provides nutritional meals, and that the company sponsors fun runs). A company that employs these guidelines is more likely to have a healthy future. An example of an impressive programme is the one installed by PJV. In practice all PJV employees were encouraged to participate in any sports activities at the mine site and drug testing was a core entry requirement (Kameso 2003).

Drug Testing

According to Dowling (1988) and Losey, et al. (2005), one area of employees’ safety and health that continues to evolve in the mining and petroleum industries is drug testing. In most of the mining areas, drug testing is a prerequisite to being hired. Mines tend to maintain the ‘drug free workplace’ policy, where employees are not allowed to take drugs at the workplace or on the mine site. The ‘drug free workplace’ policy states that employers must notify their employees of drug free workplace requirements, outline actions against employees who violate the requirements, and establish awareness programmes that include supervisory staff training in identifying drug abuse. However, as organisations begin to implement these requirements, they must be mindful of not violating the rights guaranteed their employees, specifically, the right to be free of illegal search and seizures.

Papua New Guinea Mines and Petroleum industry have significantly improved in the drug free workplace area. In most companies the Human Resource and Security departments have responsibility for the implementation of this policy, where they investigate and test employees prior to hiring and occasionally during working hours. In the case of Porgera gold mine, the Loss Control Department does the investigation and the Clinic/Medical Department does the testing. PJV has terminated many workers since this programme commenced when employees were either found in possession of drugs or had taking drugs at work or before coming to work. For example, Mr ‘Petaukali’, who was a PJV employee with the Loss Control Department, was found with a roll of marijuana while he was on duty. In one instance, a staff member was found in possession of marijuana, he was brought to the clinic for further testing. As the test results were positive, PJV terminated the staff member on the spot: this corresponds to the PJV policy. In most PNG mines, the ‘drug free workplace’ policy is designed especially to detect employees with drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and other forms of drugs (Kindi 2003).

PNG mines and petroleum industries do have some commendable OH & S related strategies for their employees. Blacharczyk (1990) has outlined the more prominent strategies whilst Hofmeister (2007) generally delineated the extensive approaches, which have been found to be workable, and could be implemented in a safety programme in almost any industry in the country.

Avoid asking employees to ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Managers and supervisors must serve as role models for the safety programme. If workers see their supervisors performing jobs in an unsafe manner, they feel they have every right to do the same behaviours. It is the manager’s responsibility to perform the job exactly as outlined by the safety programme.

Avoid having a ‘participatory façade’. Asking for employee suggestions for improving workplace safety will only be effective if the suggestions are implemented in a timely fashion. If the ideas provided by workers are ignored or implementation is postponed, when they are eventually implemented, the workers will not be motivated to support them (Creighton 1986).

Avoid the problem of workers feeling that ‘if I’m not in on it, I’m not up on it,’ by allowing workers at all levels to participate in the development of the safety programme. If workers or managers feel that the programme is being pushed down their throats without concern for their feelings, they are likely to be motivated to abide by the rules (Community and Environment Report 2001).

Workers will want to know ‘what’s in it for me’. While the company is sure to benefit from increased safety through reduced medical and insurance costs, workers may not see a personal advantage in abiding by the new safety plan. Including an incentive for workers often reverses this trend and increases compliance. However, be sure that the incentive is awarded frequently and as soon after good compliant behaviour occurs in order to tie the reward to the behaviour you want to see repeated (Anthony, Perrewe & Kacmar 1993).

In order for a safety programme to be effective, it must be followed. According to Creighton (1986) and Crispin (2006), all too often a programme is implemented and ignored. There are various reasons why some programmes work and others do not. The four strategies advanced by Blacharczyk (1990) and further elaborated by Hofmeister (2007) provide tips for implementing safety programs that have a likely opportunity for endorsement. One of the most important items in this list is that workers must be aware that it is to their advantage, and not just for the company’s benefit, if they adhere to the safety plan.


Mining industries in PNG are high risk because of the geographical locations. Almost all mining areas are in the thick jungles, rugged mountains and terrains where there are few human inhabitants. Therefore, a strategic human resource management approach to OH & S that does focus on the common causes and trends of site accidents and injuries; assesses the associated costs, both human and financial; and develops appropriate preventative work systems or more effective administrative and psychoanalytic programmes, should be encouraged. Such initiatives are likely to benefit with healthy consultation with line managers, workplace committees, employees and their unions.

This manuscript reveals that there is a substantial gap in terms of OH & S achievements between the years before and after 1999. Indeed, the productive innovations increased after 1999, and subsequently, significant contributions were made by the OH & S management in the mining industries. This involved using the weaknesses in the OH & S management policies and regulations in the past as their stepping stone. The evidence is that workable and innovative systems evolved. For example, OT ML is ‘breaking through’ the OH & S glass ceiling, while Porgera, Misima and Lihir have their own exceptional ways of managing OH & S. These results have prompted management to send a site wide encouragement to all employees to use the accredited work procedures and practices in the workplace. The benefits of PJV’s OH & S policy includes improved employee motivation to work safely through positive reinforcement of good policies and regulations, reduction of OH & S problems through reinforcement of risk or hazardous zones, reduced worker compensation cost, positive publicity and community recognition. These benefits were achieved through continuous improvements of programmes by means of internal and external review. Though, PJV have these strategic policies they have not significantly improved, nor come up with new innovative ideas for effective management of OH & S in comparison to OT ML. In contrast PJV’s OH & S management is in line with Misima and LGL, and the latter company may lay claim to have superior OH & S management systems.

Table 1, presented detail to show a number of OH & S interventions are aimed at altering the physical working environment in order to make it less hazardous. Many solutions, that have been provided by engineers, agronomists, academics and occupational hygienists, fall into this category. This knowledge guides OH & S officers and managers to formulate and implement better policies to minimise OH & S problems, and fosters best practices in the workplace. OH & S officers are encouraged to analyse policy implications and consequences with a sound objective of providing leadership to implement innovative strategies for PNG mine sites.


Effective OH & S policies and practices attract mandatory evaluations. Often policies are formulated, implemented, but ignored for evaluation, and there are various implications and consequences when policies are not followed. One practical example of implication and consequence of mining companies’ not evaluating and following up of policies they formulate is the PJV case when a national staff jammed two of his right fingers while attempting to fit track assembly to a D10N dozer. He was guiding the track, whilst it was being repositioned by a hoist, when the track chain closed up and crushed his fingers between the dozer plates. Implications and consequences of poor policy formulation, implementation and evaluation seem foreseeable in the current and emerging mining in the country. The core area that needs to be focused in order to reduce implications and consequences is that human resource policies and practices must be strategically formulated, implemented and evaluated. This is one of the most important issues in OH & S to minimise implications and consequences. Perhaps, employees must be aware that OH & S concerns should be their personal issue for their advantage, not just for the organisation’s benefit, if they adhere to the OH & S policies and practices.

A profound challenge for the mining industry of PNG is how to develop desirable OH & S mindsets. This challenge is evident when relevant OH & S information is not provided accurately and timely so others can undertake corrective actions. Or costly litigation arises from accidents and other operational malfeasance. And when government agencies introduce more restrictive regulations how mining operations are to be conducted, henceforth is further indication that benchmark OH & S practices require greater investment. Collectively, these and similar activities shatter the perception that those who have a pecuniary stake in the OH & S labour conditions have been vigilant. Despite the recent positive achievements of OT ML, PJV and LGL PNG mining will continue to be scrutinised by the wider community to ensure that human resources management policies and practices effectively embrace OH & S leading benchmark qualities.


Peter Balone Kanaparo is from the Kompiam-Ambum district, Par parish in the Enga Province, Papua New Guinea. In January 17th 1996 Peter entered the Saint Fidelis Minor Seminary in Madang Province intending to become a catholic priest. But in 1997 rather than going to Mt. Hagen in Western Highlands Province to begin a ‘novice’ programme, enrolled at the University of Papua New Guinea. There he completed a Bachelors Degree in Psychology in 2001, in 2002 a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology, and in 2005 a Honours Degree in Political Science. Currently, Peter is a fulltime academic staff member in the School of Business Administration, Human Resource Management Division, University of Papua New Guinea. Peter has published in the related fields of HRM and IR. He has pioneered human resource management courses and importantly the Human Resource Management Division/Strand in the School of Business Administration. Peter is an active member of the Papua New Guinea Human Resource Institute (PNGHRI), which is a professional institution made up of human resource practitioners, academics and managers in PNG.



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