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  • Writer's pictureshivaunconn

Trim, taut and terrific Metropolitan miners

A HEALTHY workforce is a productive workforce. This is the mantra which has been circulating around the mining industry in recent years as mine management works to bring health and wellbeing onsite, in a bid to keep productivity flowing in a tightening skills market.

In the not-so-distant past, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, dietitians and the like floated in the fringes of the mining world only being called upon when needed or with a bigger, more progressive miner.

Now health professionals onsite have become the norm and – together with a more health-conscious workforce and competitions such as the Biggest Loser – are being embraced on all levels.

One company helping coal miners at Metropolitan Colliery become healthier is Corporate Bodies International through its Working Bodies program.

Workplace health provider Corporate Bodies has been running its Working Bodies program for eight years at 40 different minesites, addressing key factors which affect shift and blue-collar workers.

Corporate Bodies dietitian Shivaun Conn ran the Working Bodies program at the colliery and said she was really proud of the site.

“I think everyone made a change,” Conn told International Longwall News. “We had some guys who really turned their life around and then we had some guys who did not have a lot to change.

“We lost about 70 kilograms and 129.5 centimetres around the waist by the final participant so it was a good, hard measurement to achieve.”

The Working Bodies program ran for one session a week for six weeks and then had a review session in week 12 before launching into a health campaign which continued for the rest of the year.

Working Bodies is designed to encourage participants to adopt better lifestyle patterns in terms of adopting healthier dietary habits, increasing exercise and also having a look at sleep and minimising fatigue.

With these habit changes Corporate Bodies hopes to assist in reducing the chronic disease risks such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer and the incidence of injury in the mining workforce.

“We talked about breaking down barriers to good health so we talked about bad diet and what things are easy to change and what things are not,” Conn said.

After 12 months Conn returned to find her miners doing well and sticking to their changes and found others who had not been on the program had started to change as a flow-on effect.

Metropolitan occupational health and safety manager Chris Bate said the colliery had returned brilliant results from the course and the information presented to participants would be carried for life.“It really opens up your eyes on how we should be eating and living,” Bates said.

“You obviously can’t change everyone’s habits; however, the course material is so enlightening that all participants would be constantly challenging their conscience about what you should and should not be eating.

“I am thinking about another module for the course for a different target audience at the mine, possibly in 2009.”

Another company making changes in the mining world is Onsite Health Solutions, which found the main area of concern among miners to be weight gain and obesity.

OHS exercise physiologist Kate Harvey, who is based in Kalgoorlie, said it was often difficult for those working in the mining industry to maintain a healthy lifestyle.“

I think there is a study that says over 76 percent of miners are overweight or obese and that is clearly evident out in the paddock, more so with the sedentary jobs,” Harvey told ILN. She said the battle of the bulge is hard to win with miners’ long hours.

“It is tricky because of their long hours and shift work but we try to look at their diet and their lifestyle factors,” Harvey said.

“We can’t tell them to change anything but we can give them information so they can make a better decision for their health and also remind them of the consequences.”Harvey said the right approach from health professionals was key to helping miners onsite.

“OHS employees are really passionate, vibrant people so we have a great way of approaching it and building rapport,” Harvey said.

“Some people are not receptive to it and that is fine but a lot of people are – for example, at Area C [BHP mine] when we ran the ‘biggest winner’ there were about 1000 people there and I had 140 sign up for the weight loss competition, which is pretty huge.”

Harvey ran the weight loss program at the BHP site from March to June last year and said she was overwhelmed with the results.

“The results were absolutely huge – the winner lost 27 kilograms and he was a new man and it was unreal,” she said.“We had other people lose between 10 and 15 kilograms, I think there was about 200 kilograms lost altogether – it was so nice to see.”

Harvey also identified cholesterol and blood pressure as other concerns onsite.

When asked if she thought mine management was embracing health professionals, Harvey said: “I think all the bigger companies have embraced it, I guess they have more finance and they are able to – the smaller companies are starting to get on board.“It is no longer a taboo thing to have a health girl or guy onsite – it is quite accepted now.

“Also, as the injuries prevention programs have shown that a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce, it is an investment for them as well.”

Vivienne Ryan

Originally published by

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