Operator Decision Making in the Minerals Industry

Tim Horberry*, Tristan Cooke, Xilin Li, Garry Marling

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Marling et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Affiliation: Minerals Industry Safety & Health Centre, University of Queensland, QLD 4072, Australia


The minerals industry is a complex work domain where people, procedures and equipments need to interact safely and efficiently. Given the importance of the human element in this industry, it is surprising that, to date, comparatively few studies have been published that specifically examine operator decision making. This paper presents two ongoing case studies from different sectors of mining and minerals processing that are drawing heavily on ‘Naturalistic Decision Making’ (NDM) approaches and methods. The case studies involve analyzing incidents using the Critical Decision Method and how Naturalistic Decision Making methods and design processes can help improve interfaces in process control. Following this, the paper will discuss this work and comment on the worth of the overall NDM approach to the minerals industry. Some of the lessons learnt will be highlighted and potential future research recommended.

Keywords: Human factors, naturalistic decision making, minerals industry, operator-centred design, incident investigation.