Evaluation of Workload Distribution in Underground Mingin and the Development of Strategies to Reduce Overuse Syndrome

Queensland University of technology – November 2006

This report describes a study of workload distribution in underground coal-mining funded by Coal Services Health and Safety Trust, undertaken by a research group at Queensland University of Technology. The study focused on the use of strategies to reduce musculoskeletal injury that use various forms of workload distribution, including job rotation, as one part of the hierarchy of controls. Previous research on the practice and outcomes of job rotation in other industries were reviewed, together with aspects of injury causation and fatigue that are influenced by workload distribution.

Deputies in Queensland and New South Wales representing 248 miners were interviewed about the current workload distribution practices at four different mine sites, together with a smaller group of miners. This provided information about the involvement of miners and deputies in decision processes about the allocation of work over the course of a shift, the factors taken into consideration in both allocating work and in determining the nature and timing of rotation to other tasks. Information was also gathered on related issues such as break and sleep quality. The interviewees also provided open-ended commentary on limitations to job rotation in their crews.

A set of field observations were also conducted, which supplemented the interview data and provided information concerning the limitations and opportunities for job rotation within crews. A modelling exercise was undertaken using information gained in the preceding phases to illustrate the effects of varying crew size and skill levels in crews on the capacity to undertake job rotation over a shift.

A series of recommendations are made with respect to workload distribution practices, in the areas of management and policy, crew-level interventions and training, and research and data management.