Maintainer of the Future

The Maintainer of the Future White Paper, authored by Melinda Hodkiewicz and funded by CRC Mining (now Mining3) was issued in 2013. This paper identified drivers changing the nature of maintenance work and the enablers and barriers to a future maintenance workforce in Australia.

In parallel with this work was ongoing with Rio Tinto and the UWA Centre for Safety to examine the relationships between procedure management, compliance and safety. A $118k grant and close collaboration with Rio Tinto sites and safety groups enabled a large study of maintainers to be conducted. The results of this are documented in two publications.

Kanse, L., Parkes, K., Hodkiewicz, M., Hu, X. and Griffin, M., 2018. Are you sure you want me to follow this? A study of procedure management, user perceptions and compliance behaviour. Safety Science, 101, pp.19-32.

Hu, X., Griffin, M., Yeo, G., Kanse, L., Hodkiewicz, M. and Parkes, K., 2018. A new look at compliance with work procedures: An engagement perspective. Safety Science, 105, pp.46-54.

In reflecting on these projects in 2017, in particular the long interviews with maintainers about their work with procedures, it became apparent that many aspects of maintainers work and environment are not well understood by those outside a maintenance team. There have been very few studies on the background, motivations and aspirations of maintainers, and none on maintainers that work in the resources sector of Western Australia. This is inspite of the crucial role maintainers play in sustaining the infrastructure that funds Australia’s prosperity.

In 2017 a new phase of work for the Maintainer of the Future project began in collaboration with A/P Martin Forsey and PhD student Bonita Carroll, both from UWA Schoolof Social Sciences. This work aimed to examine the following questions:

  • What motivates maintainers?
  • What demotivates maintainers?
  • What do maintainers value in the work environment?
  • How do maintainers resolve technically difficult issues?
  • How does the maintenance team culture shape work attitudes?
  • How does operations behaviour shape maintainer’s response?
  • What is the lived experience of maintainers, male and female?

Examining these questions would not have been possible without the extraordinary support of two resources companies that allowed Bonita to collect data at their Pilbara sites over an extended period of 8 months. Her PhD thesis, which has a specific focus on female maintainers, is due for completion at the end of 2019. However early findings are generating interest and there was a sellout event sponsored by Women in Mining WA (WIMWA) in July and a meeting with a WA Minister in August 2019.