Tropicana implements programme to address sleep disorders

AngloGold Ashanti’s Tropicana gold mine in Australia rolled out a programme based on improving health, safety and productivity outcomes by identifying and supporting people with sleep disorders.

These conditions can be debilitating and dangerous for people who work on mine sites. Since the programme started, there has been a 51% reduction in fatigue alarms among haul truck drivers.

“Fatigue management, particularly for personnel working on a fly-in, fly-out site such as Tropicana, is a key driver when it comes to the health and safety of our employees,” says Stephen Perkins, Tropicana General Manager. “Tropicana’s fatigue management tool is industry leading and the engagement of the workforce was paramount in its success.”

Melius Consulting was brought on board to work alongside Tropicana and its alliance mining contractor, Macmahon Holdings, on this intervention.

The first step in the process was the running of a trial that made use of various technologies to reduce risks to employees, and to minimise incidents involving high-risk activities such as mining operations and processing.

These included a driver safety system (DSS), which was installed in the entire fleet of haul trucks to monitor driver fatigue, and the introduction of a wrist-worn device, the Readiband, to measure sleep quality and sleep/wake timing. Subsequent analysis of the data indicated that employees were experiencing sleep-related issues that affected their alertness during day and night shifts across our various rosters.

Some of the key findings were:

  • Approximately 60% of individuals were not obtaining the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night
  • Individuals spent 14% of their shift time at an alertness level less than 70%. This can result in a reaction time equivalent to a person with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08%
  • Some 16% of participants using the Readiband were identified as potentially requiring sleep disorder screening

Melius Consulting was then engaged to work collaboratively in developing a solution to identify, screen and treat individuals with potential sleep disorders in order to return them fit for work. Key factors of their solution included:

  • Reducing fatigue-related risks and incidents
  • Reducing the cost reduction of sleep disorder screening
  • Expediting turnaround times for the treatment of sleep disorders
  • Minimising the impact to production

Fatigue data from the DSS was reviewed monthly to identify individuals who may require sleep disorder screening. These people then completed a series of validated sleep questionnaires online, which included general health issues affecting sleep such as obstructive sleep apnoea, shift work, insomnia and sleepiness.

The programme also involved a specialist travelling to Tropicana periodically to conduct sleep disorder screening. Individuals attended a one-hour appointment where a sleep technician attached several sleep sensors and wires that the individual then wore overnight. The sleep disorder screening conducted at Tropicana was more commonly referred to as a “home sleep study” or polysomnogram (PSG), the gold standard in assessing an individual for a sleep disorder.

Individuals were provided with their results within four days of screening being conducted and those identified with a potential sleep disorder were provided with a treatment plan and managed in accordance with AngloGold Ashanti’s injury management and return to work procedures.

In 2019, this project was a finalist in the Work Health and Safety Excellence Awards, which are organised by the government of Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.