Get to know the Health & Safety Division

April 22, 2021

by Margo Ellis, Associate Editor

“Making so many friends with a similar background who all care about the health and safety of their peers is my favorite thing about our division.”

As we continue to highlight SME’s eight divisions, a quick Q&A session was posed with 2021 chair Ali Lashgari from the Health & Safety Division, who fielded important questions about the division’s relevance for SME and industry professionals.

Q: What does Division have to offer?
SME’s Health and Safety division offers an abundance of resources to the members of the society and offers a platform for mining professionals to share their lessons learned. For instance, SME currently offers the Certified Mine Safety Professional (CMSP) credential exam as well as CMSP preparation courses that indicates to peers and prospective employers that the certified person has the experience, knowledge of domestic and international best practices and that they are dedicated to elevating safety and health standards on the job. In addition to the CMSP credentials, our division offers other educational resources, including webinars and technical sessions. Our members are always welcome to join periodic health and safety division meetings and take advantage of the SME Health and Safety Open Forum.

Q: Goals for 2021?
SME’s Health and Safety division has three main goals for 2021. First of all, as a growing division, we would like to focus on our industry relations to attract more professionals to our division. We believe that every mining professional should have access to a wealth of high-quality occupational health and safety training resources to effectively perform duties and keep others safe. To be able to promote health and safety more effectively, we would like to initiate partnerships with mining companies of different sizes and regions. It will help us in developing a better understand of the industry's needs and reaching out not only to mine health and safety professionals but all miners more effectively.
The second goal of the SME Health and Safety division for 2021 is to redefine its communication means. In the past, traditional face-to-face interactions were the primary method of communication for us. It limited our outreach to the professionals that attended conferences and other face-to-face events. We understand that it has been challenging for everyone to maintain existing contacts and develop professional networks. We learned our lessons in 2020 and 2021 on taking advantage of distance education opportunities. Now that we see “the light at the end of the tunnel”, we would like to take this opportunity to come up with an appropriate combination of virtual and in-person communications to make our resources available to more mining professionals.

We would like also to attract the attention of the next generation of mining professionals to the health and safety aspect of mining. For this purpose, we would like to work with mining companies in offering health and safety scholarships to college students.

Q: Number of technical sessions in 2020?
During the MinEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo, the Health and Safety Division held one live keynote session (upwards of 200 people attended and we had 15 minutes of live Q&A), 2 simulive panel sessions that were prerecorded with live Q&A (each had around 100 attendees consistently online), one simulive presentation that was prerecorded with live Q&A (had around 100 attendees), as well as 13 on-demand presentations.

As far as key takeaways and lessons learned, our CMSP Hot Topics in Frontline Worker H&S Session consisted of industry feedback about what the most important H&S questions are that the industry needs to answer. These questions are listed below and informed our 2022 Health and Safety program planning:

  • How do we characterize individual decision-making frameworks and how these frameworks interface with workforce culture to create shared H&S values and a workforce that is empowered to act?
  • How can we empower and enable mines that are struggling with respiratory health issues to elevate their controls and practices to industry benchmarks?
  • What gaps exist in our current safety practices that are allowing fatalities to continue to persist?
  • How can we knowledge-share amongst the mining H&S community?
  • How can we expand the numbered of Mining H&S-degreed professionals in the industry?
  • How can we reduce the stigma on mental health and create engagement at the workplace and a total worker health culture?
  • How do we recruit and retain qualified candidates and maintain H&S performance when so many seasoned professionals are leaving the industry and are being replaced by folks who are significantly more junior?
  • How do we rise to the regulatory challenges that the industry will face in the coming two years?
  • How do we create an accurate picture of the industry today?
  • How is the experience with COVID-19 going to change your safety culture in the future – recognizing that this is a constantly evolving issue?

Q: What are your favorite things/memories about your time with the division?
I have been very lucky to be a member of the SME and its Health and Safety Division. Throughout these years, I have met and worked with many great people. I always appreciate the opportunity that this division has offered to me to develop my professional network and contribute to the mining society. Our division meetings bring together a very diverse pool of mining professionals from different organizational levels, academics, students, and researchers from all over the world. Making so many friends with a similar background who all care about the health and safety of their peers is my favorite thing about our division.

We believe that it is essential to create a culture where occupational health and safety are the responsibility of each mining professional. To achieve this goal, organizations should make resources available to their employees and promote a culture where everyone is welcome to share their input. We believe that the resources the Health and Safety Division offers make it worthwhile for everyone to check their membership details and consider becoming a member of our impactful division.

Please feel free to contact 2021 Chair Ali Lashgari directly with questions or comments.

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