For Safety Officer Nic Kelly, a typical day at the office is unlike what most people would assume. Four days a week, he’s underground in the pitch black for 12-13 hours a day making his way around by the light of a head lamp. And he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is it about your role you enjoy the most?
I love that I get to work directly with underground guys. That’s my background and it was important to me when I took on this role that I remembered what the team are facing 500 meters underground. I want to make sure we’re constantly thinking of safety improvements and innovations at the coal face.
What attracted you to the role / industry initially?
When I started in the mining industry 15 years ago, it was originally to set myself up financially and enjoy a roster that wasn’t your typical 9-5.
What’s something many people wouldn’t know about your role or workplace?
It’s generally considered an office role but I’m underground four days a week working by the light of a lamp in pitch blackness. I’m there 12-13 hours a day and it’s often extremely noisy and I’m generally wading in waist deep in mud.
Have you faced any challenges in your role? If so what and how did / are you overcoming it?
It’s been a real shift to go from an underground role to a surface role. A lot of my mates think I’ve crossed to the dark side and just see my passion for processes and procedures as a pain they don’t need. But it’s their safety and wellbeing that means the most to me so I still go underground as often as I can to show them I’m a part of the team, and what happens underground matters. Every improvement I make counts toward overcoming this.
What advice would you give to someone looking at a role similar to yours?
Do your time underground and get the experience and knowledge first hand. Experiencing what goes on underground is a lot different to reading or hearing about it. It will make you a better Safety Officer.
What traits, skills or qualifications are needed to perform your role?
You should have terrific people skills to be able to translate policies and procedures into language people understand and care about. Get your advanced first aid skills up to date and become a certified trainer. Safety qualifications are also handy but not essential.
Are you a minority in your workplace?
Nope, most of the team are men around my age so I fit in pretty well.
Any other wins, challenges, experiences or pieces of wisdom that you’d like to share?
I’m pretty happy with my 5230 zero-lost time injury days on my record – that’s the number of days I’ve been working in the industry. It means I’ve stayed safe and well on the job, and that allows me to come home to loved ones every night.
As for advice, it’s so easy to want to make sweeping changes to a workplace. Do your time. Get to know the current procedures and team members and work on subtle changes starting from the most critical and working your way down the list.