|dc.description.abstract||Adverse weather conditions have long been known to introduce safety risks to any
industry whereby workers have exposure to the elements. Despite this awareness, there is little published and peer-reviewed evidence to indicate that researchers
and practitioners have invested effort into understanding weather as a safety issue, resulting in fear of the unknown danger and leading organisations to cease or
highly restrict work activities until conditions return to normal and the system can operate as designed. In particular, the models of safety that are favoured by
practitioners are often not tested by researchers to determine whether they truly
represent the impacts of adverse weather conditions on socio-technical systems. The aim of the study is to increase our understanding of how weather affects a socio-technical system so that we may identify opportunities for sustaining operations. To achieve this, I decided to test four methods of qualitative assessment to determine which process was most suitable for addressing the gap that existed in the knowledge. I undertook these tests on a case study of the Australian surface mining industry in order to apply these practices to a real-life socio-technical system. This resulted in both an increase in the understanding of how adverse weather conditions affected surface mine operations and allowed me to theorise on how the same conditions might apply in other settings. Additionally, I was able to determine if adverse weather conditions triggered a shift into degraded modes of operation. I was able to conclude that semi-structured interview technique was the most appropriate method for increasing our understanding of how adverse weather
affects socio-technical systems. This technique also allowed me to confirm that weather is not a hazard. Instead, it is an external condition on a system that triggers a shift into a degraded mode of operation. By considering adverse weather
as an external condition, you can precisely identify the hazards that it generates
and the controls that will address the causal factors that may lead to the hazardous
event. Additionally, by regarding adverse weather as a trigger for degraded modes
of operation, we can differentiate between when work needs to stop in order to prevent failure of the system, and when we need to implement effective restrictions
that will allow us to sustain operations.
Key terms and definitions
The key terms highlighted in this study have numerous variants on their definitions. Therefore, for this paper, the terms are defined as follows.
Also known as ‘causal factor’, a contributing factor is an anteceding action, theme or attribute that an investigator or researcher will determine to have resulted in an accident.
A source of harm with the potential to result in an accident. Loosely-coupled and tightly-coupled systems
A loosely-coupled system’s components have minimal interactions or
interdependencies, and therefore it is unlikely or less likely to cease operations
when a component is absent or fails. Inversely, a tightly-coupled system’s components have a high number of interactions and interdependencies, and therefore the system is more likely to be impacted when a component is absent or fails. Qualitative research
As defined in Creswell (2014, p 4)
Is an approach for exploring and understanding the meaning individuals or
groups ascribe to a social or human problem. The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the research making interpretations of the meaning of the data.
As defined in Creswell (2014, p 190)
These interviews involve unstructured and general open-ended questions
that are few in number and intended to elicit views and opinions from the participants. Socio-technical systems
A complex system that includes the interaction between human operators and technical processes.||