The Key to Mining Safety is… a Whiteboard

We lean advocates love simple visual controls. And I recently saw a television program that included a marvelous example of such controls.

I was watching an episode of “Build It Bigger” on the Discovery Channel. The episode focused on efforts to dig a water tunnel in California to bring water to the southern part of the state.

The tunnel, which extends for many miles, is under construction far below the surface of the ground. It uses highly sophisticated machinery to chew through the dirt and rock, then install pre-fabricated concrete sections into five-foot-wide rings that form the wall of the tunnel. The miners install four to six rings per day.

But what caught my eye was what happens before the workers go underground.

A large whiteboard stands near the tunnel entrance. The names of all workers – and any visitors – are listed on the whiteboard. Two hooks are next to each name, one in a column labeled “In”, the other column labeled “Out.” A plain metal tag hangs from each “Out” hook.

Just before heading into the tunnel, each miner moves the tag by his name over to the “In” hook. The result: The whiteboard clearly displays which workers are in the tunnel at any given time – valuable information in case of a problem or accident.

I can’t think of any other system – a computer display or anything else – that would work better than this simple whiteboard.

Can you?


TIm McMahon said...

That is great. We actually use a whiteboard for a similiar safety situation. If someone goes to the plant during off hours (non-production time) then we use a whiteboard to write the names of those individuals. This helps use know who is in the building should a safety situation arise we can ensure all are safe.

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