Driving Meaningful Change at BHP South Flank

With a strong focus on building an inclusive and respectful workplace, leaders from BHP South Flank partnered with BehaviourWorks Australia, in partnership with Monash University’s Faculty of Education, to measure and advise on their agenda to promote gender equity and workplace psychosocial safety*.

This project sought to understand and quantify the drivers of 4 psychosocial risk factors at the mines, thus informing leadership on the impact of existing policies whilst offering evidence to effectively advise on future programs which could be deployed to reduce psychosocial risk. The 4 psychosocial risk factors included:

  • Bullying and incivility
  • Day-to-day, normative, sexist language and behaviours
  • Negative sentiments toward/about women
  • Gender inequality and male dominance

*Psychosocial safety refers to aspects of a work environment that impact the psychological and social well-being of employees, enabling people to feel safe, valued, and supported.

The challenge:
Encourage respectful behaviours in a traditionally male-dominated work environment
BHP South Flank

What did we do?

Between November and December 2022, baseline data* was collected via survey with departments and crews across South Flank.

*Baseline data refers to data and other information collected at the beginning of a scientific study that is used to assess the change brought about by an intervention.

From February to July 2023, follow-up surveys, interviews, and observations were conducted across South Flank to measure the impact of various policies and programs tried. These programs included:

  • An Active Bystander Training program developed by BHP
  • Gender targets to achieve a gender-balanced workforce
  • Alcohol restrictions across the mine
  • Investments in facilities intended to foster a safer and more positive environment

What were our overall findings?

Our baseline data showed that most people at South Flank value diversity (92%), most agree that diversity in the workplace is good (90%), and most feel that South Flank is a safe place to work.

Read our survey results

Between February - July 2023, we tracked whether the various policies and programs affected 4 psychosocial risk factors. Overall, we found that the combined impact of the policies and programs was:

Some behaviours shifted, for example:
  • The percentage of women who reported witnessing or experiencing any bullying in the last month decreased
  • The number of women who challenged negative language in the last month decreased 
  • There was a small decrease in perceived psychosocial safety, although we need to look at why to determine if this is a concerning trend. 

But the majority of behaviours stayed consistent or did not change over time, for example:
  • The percentage of men who reported witnessing or experiencing any bullying in the last month
  • The number of men who challenged negative language being used about others (bystander action)
  • Reported use of sexist language at work by men and women

Active Bystander Training Program

In reviewing the program over time, we found the training made no clear and consistent impact on bystander action, bullying, sexist language, social norms, or safety. While participants enjoyed the training overall, we concluded that training needed to be ongoing, relevant, and delivered by suitable and skilled facilitators. 

Gender-balanced targets

Attitudes towards South Flank’s gender-balanced workforce were generally positive. Most supported having women working at South Flank and felt like the workplace was more enjoyable and psychologically safer with more women on site. However, backlash was evident as some employees felt that the policy was unfair and not based on merit.

Read about our interview findings

Alcohol restrictions

The majority of workers were either indifferent or supportive of the implementation of alcohol restrictions from July 2021, our surveys and interviews found.

Read our survey and interview findings

What’s next?

The research team from BehaviourWorks Australia and Monash University’s Faculty of Education are now focused on publishing peer-reviewed academic papers to share findings and amplify the impact of research for those seeking to reduce psychosocial risk in male-dominated work environments and build inclusive and respectful workplaces.

Have a project for us?

We'd love to help you unpack the problem. Get in touch.