The demanding work environment of Western Australia’s burgeoning resources economy and remote mining operations has attracted one of Australia’s leading providers of workplace injury prevention. Queensland-established Kinnect has opened a state headquarters in Perth to bring to Western Australia its prevention, injury management and health solutions services.“Western Australia’s resources sector turned over A$100 billion in the past calendar year but is showing stress fractures from a reduced pool from which employers can choose experienced and healthy workers,” Kinnect Founding Director, Kevin Conlon. “The well publicised estimates are that the state will need something like a further 33,000 employees in the resources sector in WA by year’s end,” said Conlon. “This talent take-up in mining particularly is increasingly having to be filled with less experienced people, such is the demand dynamics of the sector – even to a point overseas workers are being imported to fill Western Australia’s skills gap. This gap in personnel heightens the workplace risk from injury as lesser trained or experienced personnel are being rushed into not just complex mining operations but all of the associated off-site support services.He continues: “In addition, these mining operations are generally around the clock and that adds a level of risk management missing in a more conventional nine to five work environment. Add in factors such as the mental and social aspects of fly-in fly-out schedules, long shifts, large machinery and the vagaries of extreme weather conditions and the fabric of thousands of Western Australian workplaces goes up a significant notch or two in likely injury rates. In this heated workplace environment, Western Australian employers need to prioritise how to better identify and manage these risks, so as to not only reduce injury rates but elevate injury prevention performance.”Kinnect says employers can ease injury risk levels in the very first instance by making job offers more quickly to secure the best applicants before they are lost to other resource projects and mine developers or other industries. Mine operators could also revert to using reputable contractors to fill staffing gaps when they were unable to secure permanent people more skilled and aware of workplace safety regimes in the sector. This hiring attitude then needs to be backed up by proactive workplace prevention and injury management programs designed to return injured workers to as close as practically possible to their pre-injury level of function both within and outside the workplace. Equally important in preventing injury was to parallel those regimes with helping people improve their health within such workplaces.Kinnect’s Western Australian operations, being headed up by WA Director and health professional, Rebecca Morton-Stephens, will employ a pool of functionally based occupational health services that bring together a full spectrum of allied health professionals (Occupational Therapists, Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists) to minimise or improve work place injury frequency and severity rates within the state’s resources sector. Morton-Stephens said the need for enhanced workplace injury prevention and injury support was not only reflected in the size of WA resources sector, with 966 operating mines and 73 operating oil and gas fields, but a future outlook where known and forecast exploration expenditure signified a continuing strong pipeline of new mining and energy projects.“Companies watching their dollar spend have an opportunity to assess how their injury rates are costing their business in real terms. They may need to consider the option of short term contracting with experienced personnel versus being rushed into employing full time staff with lesser experience, until greater certainty returns to the job pool market,” she said. “This is particularly so for companies who want to manage the risks of employing workers who may be required to participate in more physically demanding or more highly mechanised tasks where the injury risk is higher.” Morton-Stephens said a higher level of safety consciousness towards workplace injury management, prevention and health solutions also benefited insurers and employers trying to reduce the cost of work related injury or illness by returning injured or ill workers to gainful employment within an optimal timeframe. It also helped corporations wanting to maintain the productivity of high value people contributing to the success of their organisation.