Production, Safety and Teamwork in a Deep-Level Mining Workplace

Cover of Production, Safety and Teamwork in a Deep-Level Mining Workplace

Perspectives from the Rock-Face

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvi
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Introduction

Pages 1-24
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Abstract

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the South African mining sector’s contribution to the national economy. It also discusses the socio-economic challenges that the sector has faced in terms of operational efficiency, productivity and safety. The chapter then briefly discusses the formal and informal organisational aspects of restructuring work processes in the South African mining industry. It concludes with a synopsis of each of the chapters of this book.

Abstract

This chapter provides an ethnographic account of conducting organisational research in a deep-level gold mining workplace. The ethnography presented in this book entailed living in the mine hostel, observing and participating in the production tasks of the underground mining teams for a full production shift for a period stretching over six months. The chapter discusses the day-to-day running of the production process at the rock-face down the mine. This section is important for understanding the organisation of the production cycle and the actions of the mining teams, foremen and management to ensuring the smooth daily running of the production process inside the pit. Furthermore, the chapter presents an overview of AfricaGold’s business performance in terms of operational efficiency, productivity and safety.

Abstract

This chapter provides an extensive review of literature on the interaction between and interdependence of informal and formal working practices in various workplace settings. The aim of the chapter is to elucidate the organisational, managerial, human relations and social factors that give rise to informal work practices and strategies, on the shop-floor not only at workers and work group levels but also at supervisory and managerial levels. This chapter helps the reader to understand the informal work practice of making a plan (planisa) in a deep-level mining workplace.

Abstract

This chapter examines the interaction between formal and informal organisation of work in a deep-level mining workplace. In response to organisational constraints, underground mining teams make a plan (planisa) to offset production bottlenecks which affected the daily running of the production process at the rock-face down the mine. They ‘get on and get by’ inside the pit to cope with organisational dysfunctions and management inefficiencies. The chapter highlights the limits of formalised work methods and the significance of the frontline miners’ informal work practice of making a plan (planisa) as an existing and alternative working practice that shapes their subjective orientation, agency and resilience to deep-level mining work processes and managerial initiatives. While the informal work practice of planisa has pros and cons, any managerial strategy designed to improve organisational productivity, safety and teamwork must recognise and systematically articulate the frontline miners’ work culture of planisa. This is especially important if we are to fully understand the limits of contemporary organisational strategies and workers’ orientations towards modernised work processes and managerial practices.

Abstract

This chapter examines and discusses the unintended outcomes of the production bonus scheme the mine had instituted to motivate and increase the productivity of the frontline mining teams. This is crucial given that the maladministration of the bonus system could lead to a range of undesired outcomes such as deteriorating levels of trust between management and frontline workers, prioritisation of production at the expense of safety, poor work relations and ultimately low levels of organisational, employee and team performance. There are a number of organisational, management and labour factors that can render a production bonus scheme effective or ineffective. These factors influence the nature and extent of worker reactions to the bonus scheme.

This chapter examines and discusses the factors that influenced the reaction of the mining teams to the team-based production bonus scheme and the extent to which mine management fulfilled its side of the bargain in the implementation of the production bonus. The chapter highlights the manner in which the team-based bonus system influenced teams of stope workers to engage in their informal organisational practice of making plan (planisa) in order to offset the snags that jeopardised their prospects of earning the production bonus. The chapter reveals that, to a large extent, the productivity bonus generated conflict rather than cooperation at the point of production down the mine. As a result, the incentive scheme failed to live up to expectations by not eliciting the desired levels of organisational, worker and team performance at the rock-face.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the impact of generational differences between younger (Millennial) and older generations of frontline miners on team performance as one of the factors that compelled the mining teams to make a plan (planisa) at the rock-face down the mine. In this context, making a plan is a work strategy the mining teams adopted to offset the adverse impact of intergenerational conflict on their team performance and on their prospects of earning the production bonus. The chapter examines intergenerational conflict within the mining teams as a work and organisational phenomenon rather than simply from a birth cohort perspective. It locates the clash of older and younger generations of miners and their generational identities in the historical, national and social contexts shaping the employment relationship, managerial strategies, work practices and production culture of the apartheid and post-apartheid deep-level mining. This shows the impact that the society has in shaping the differences across generations. The chapter highlights work group dynamics that generated conflict between the older and younger generations of frontline mineworkers. The chapter argues that at the heart of the intergenerational conflict was their orientation towards work and management decisions.

Abstract

This chapter discusses the miners’ informal working strategy of making a plan (planisa) in context of the relationship between teamwork training that was provided to the mining teams above the ground and its implementation in the underground mining workplace. The training programme was essentially about empowering and transforming frontline mining teams to self-directed work teams (SDWT) to understand the gold-mining business through the eyes of management. Its aim was to create new kinds of mineworkers who understood the what, how and why of the twenty-first-century mining business. AfricaGold sought to restructure the underground workplace through SDWT training in order to create a congenial, humane, democratic and more meaningful form of work processes, which permitted the mining teams to have greater flexibility in the production tasks they performed. The chapter reveals that the SDWT training seemed to have motivated the mining teams. Interestingly enough, this motivation tended to prevail even in situations of production bottlenecks. At the heart of this motivation was the miners’ organisational practice of making a plan. It is arguable that the SDWT training enhanced the desire of the mining work teams to make a plan in response to production blockages and managerial inefficiencies. This is essentially what the training aimed to do – to create new kinds of frontline mineworkers who are committed to achieving the productivity goals of a modern mining workplace. Ironically, the management of production did not seem to complement the inspiration and energy that the training instilled in the minds and hearts of the mining teams.

Abstract

This chapter examines the changing nature of frontline supervision in light of the supervisory training and development programme which was provided to shift-bosses in order to complement the workplace change processes that AfricaGold embarked on to improve operational efficiency, productivity and safety of its mining operations. Although the training course was an important workplace change initiative taken by top management to improve organisational, individual and team performance at the rock-face where it mattered most, lack of organisational and managerial support prevented frontline supervisors from effectively implementing what they learned on the training course. The chapter highlights the importance of not only providing organisational change-focused training, but also systematically and strategically involving frontline supervisors in the conceptualisation, design, execution and evaluation of workplace change initiatives. It is only when frontline supervisors are supported, managerially and organisationally, that they can be deal-makers rather than deal-breakers for a successful introduction and execution of change initiatives on the shop-floor.

Abstract

This chapter examines the miners’ occupational culture of planisa at the level of supervisor–worker relations. The chapter presents a tale of two frontline production supervisors or shift-bosses as they were called on the mine – Jimmy and Lee. In this context, the ability of the production supervisor to make a plan in ways that enhance the social organisation of the production process and people management is crucial to the development of a reciprocal working relationship. The chapter argues that planisa also entails a valuable social organisational skill through which frontline supervisors could effectively use to manage work group dynamics and team performance associated with teamworking, intra-team conflict, effort-bargain and resistance.

The chapter reveals that by ‘getting on and getting by’ with his charges – going an extra mile to making plan for his mining teams wherever possible – Jimmy created a working environment that enabled his subordinates to achieve their production targets and increase their capacity to earn the much-desired productivity and safety bonuses. The case of Jimmy and his charges highlights the role of the frontline supervisor as a vital agent of workplace change that elicits worker cooperation and support for new work processes, not for the sake of pleasing management but in ways that benefit and make sense to them – going above and beyond organisational requirements to achieve the organisational performance goals at the point of production. On the contrary, the case of Lee, another frontline supervisor, demonstrates the opposite and highlights the harmfulness of poor supervisor–worker relations to the achievement of organisational, employee and team performance goals.

Abstract

This concluding chapter not only summarises the key discussions and arguments of the preceding chapters but also reflects on organisational, managerial, supervisory, behavioural, social and cultural factors shaping the miners’ reactions to the restructured and formalised deep-level mining work processes and their unofficial job tactic of making a plan (planisa). The chapter provides suggestions on how the positive aspects of planisa could be harnessed and negative aspects addressed towards efficient, productive and safer organisational, managerial, supervisory and operational practices at the rock-face down the mine.

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Index

Pages 253-259
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Cover of Production, Safety and Teamwork in a Deep-Level Mining Workplace
DOI
10.1108/9781787145634
Publication date
2017-11-09
Author
ISBN
978-1-78714-564-1
eISBN
978-1-78714-563-4