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Dr. Emily Haas
Department of Health and Human Services

The mission of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Program is to eliminate mining fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through relevant research and impactful solutions. A positive organizational safety culture is essential for reducing such incidents. Dr. Emily Haas of the NIOSH made major advancements in measuring safety culture in the mining industry and developing and implementing industry-wide strategies to improve workers’ safety performance to reduce accidents and injuries.

In her innovative research, Dr. Haas studied aspects of safety culture with approximately 2,700 miners at 39 mines throughout the country to identify gaps between management perceptions of safety culture and worker perceptions. Using the findings of these studies, Dr. Haas has advanced the use of behavioral science to understand how employee perspectives and management support and communication can influence the adoption of safe workplace practices. Further, by reviewing this information with mining organizations, Dr. Haas helped empower workers and inspired changes to mining operations’ safety management systems.

Companies can tailor these findings to fit their own methods and management processes to develop a mining workforce needed for the 21st century as new innovations continue to improve and be implemented in the mining industry. For example, one participating supplier used the results to focus on improving worker participation, communication, and leadership; they subsequently saw a reduction in their site’s incidents between 2016 and 2018. Similarly, other participating sites are finding new ways to instill a sense of autonomy among employees and, as a result, have reached hundreds of thousands of hours of working without experiencing a recordable incident. Because Dr. Haas’ research extended to several mining commodities, her impact is industry-wide and has improved systems and sub-processes on both a national and international level.

Dr. Haas, who teaches and gives leadership workshops, is often asked to share her research at industry conferences and in trade magazines. Notably, stakeholders are writing their own articles using the results, which have gained traction in industries such as construction and asphalt. Some of the products of her work, including one company’s updated safety training guide, have been distributed online, reaching tens of thousands more workers. Several construction companies also share this online information, extending the impact beyond the mining industry. This reach indicates that thousands of workers will benefit from Dr. Haas’ work for years to come.

All this work was done during a restricted timeline and an intense travel schedule. Over a two-year period, Dr. Haas spent approximately 120 days at mines throughout 17 states, spending minimal funds to accomplish this task. Her persistence in responding to stakeholder requests and continually fostering positive relationships with these external entities exemplifies Dr. Haas’ desire to provide excellent public service to the mining industry.