Olympic Dam

Why on earth are we doing it this way?

Imagine your job is to stand outside, no matter what the weather, day and night and wait for large concrete trucks to arrive.

Once they do, you help line up the truck and pull the dumping lever.

Until last year this had been happening at BHP’s Olympic Dam site in South Australia for almost as long as the mine has been operating, explained Russell, Mine Production Surface Supervisor.

“Part of our process is to fill old stopes with cement aggregate fill (CAF) so a new-stope can be created nearby without it collapsing into the old site,” he said.

To do this, holes up to 35 centimetres in diameter are drilled up to four hundred metres to allow the CAF pour into the old site.

Dump trucks must be accurately lined up over the small holes and hopper and this involved three shifts of spotters 24 hours a day, no matter what the conditions.

“It wasn’t until we took part in the company’s Field Leadership program that someone was inspired to ask, “Why on earth, in this day and age of technology, are we doing it this way?” he said.

I had not seen any company put the time, effort and money into creating a safe working environment like this

"The Field leadership program creates engagement with staff and contractors and helps them focus on finding creative solutions that lead to improved safety and efficiency outcomes."

"In this case the solution was a proximity activated camera system, giving the driver a clear view of the hopper."

"The proximity sensor turns on the camera when the truck is close and transmits to a monitor in the driver’s cabin, allowing them to perfectly position the load by themselves,” he said.

A former builder and project manager, Russell came to Olympic Dam to supervise a house construction project and this exposed him to the BHP culture.

Once he saw how the company operated, he knew he wanted to join full time.

“What really attracted me was their level of attention and attitude towards safety,” he said.

“I had not seen any company put the time, effort and money into creating a safe working environment like this.”

And it's become life changing for his family with his two eldest children moving up to nearby Roxby Downs as well.

His son-in-law now also works for the company and with four grandchildren, he doesn't rule out more following in his footsteps.

“We all love it up here and really enjoy the atmosphere, attitude and culture,” he said.

“The company is always looking for ways to improve and things like the Field Leadership program encourages better engagement between everyone, staff and contractors.”

He said teamwork is what led them to find a more efficient dumping process, freeing up three people and eliminating their exposure to the elements.

“Achievements like this only happen because of the culture," Russell said.