Complexity Theory: What Can We Learn From Mining Fatalities? | August Chapter Event
What can we learn from the last 20 years of fatalities in mining? In this presentation we will hear about the findings and recommendations from the review undertaken by Dr Sean Brady into fatalities in the Queensland mining and quarrying industry, tabled in Queensland Parliament.
We’ll find out about the nature of the real causes underlying these incidents, and how it may differ to what we think.
Then we’ll take a brief detour into complexity theory, illustrated with some surprising and light-hearted examples. Complexity Science seeks to better understand the underlying principles that govern ‘complex systems’ – systems consisting of agents that interact with one another and create positive feedback, such as the economy or complex projects.
Finally we’ll pull the strands together by returning to mining, and find out what complexity theory can tell us about managing risk in high hazard industries.
One of the key recommendations from the Brady Review was for the industry to adopt the principles of High Reliability Organisations (HROs). HROs are organisations that operate in hazardous industries yet have few serious incidents. How do they manage this?
- What common themes underlie the causes of fatalities in mining.
- What makes a system ‘complex’ as opposed to ‘complicated’.
- Why unpredictable things happen and why systems defy our attempts to control them.
- How certain organisations manage to achieve high performance without serious incidents, despite operating in high-hazard environments.
Dr Sean Brady is forensic engineer and the managing director of Brady Heywood, a firm that works with business, government and the legal sector to understand and resolve complex issues that typically require a whole of system approach. In 2020 Sean completed the Brady Review, an investigation into the causes of fatalities in the Queensland mining and quarrying industry for Resources Safety and Health Queensland.
This review analysed 20 years of incident and fatality information, was data driven, and culminated in 11 recommendations for both industry and the regulator on how to lower the fatality and incident rate. Sean is currently engaged as the lead investigator on a major power station incident in Queensland. He also speaks, podcasts, and writes about failure, human behaviour, data analytics and engineering disasters.
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