The Safety and Training Advisory Committee was formed in 2001 to provide the industry with a single voice concerning safety and training recommendations to the Ontario Mining Association’s board of directors and various safety associations, and to provide a sounding board for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ (MTCU) Mining Tripartite Committee. The tripartite committee consists of labour, management and government, and meets at least four times a year to discuss changes to the common core training program.
The mandate of the committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the OMA board of directors and industry employers on issues related to health and safety and employee training. When new legislation is proposed or there are changes to Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards that affect the mining industry the committee discusses these changes.
Fred St. Jean is chair of the OMA’s Safety and Training Advisory Committee. He is currently superintendent of safety for Vale, Ontario Operations. His technical background is in mines engineering and he has worked underground in various capacities including supervisor, safety supervisor and general foreman operations.
St. Jean is proud of the fact that many of the committee members are active on other provincial health and safety fronts including the Mining Legislative Review Committee and its subcommit¬tees, the Mining Tripartite Committee and the Safety Association Advisory Committee. He acknowledges that he has “a very talented committee with a very experienced, enthusiastic, and very well-connected group of people on health and safety matters in the province.”
One of the current issues before the committee is the Ministry of Labour’s review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety prevention and enforcement system. The review is being carried out with the support of the Expert Advisory Panel comprised of safety experts from labour, employer groups and academic institutions. The panel is researching best practices that improve workplace safety in national and international jurisdictions and is looking at a range of issues including:
• Safety practices in the workplace and entry-level safety training;
• Impact of the underground economy on health and safety practices;
• Legislation and how it serves worker safety.
The Safety and Training Advisory Commit¬tee members took the proposals back to their respective companies for discussion and provided the OMA board with feedback and thoughts about the changes. After the board reviewed the feedback, the committee wrote the submission, which Chris Hodgson presented to the Labour Ministry. The OMA’s input is currently under review.
Another example of an issue being addressed is the CSA’s request for the mining industry’s views on recent changes to the confined space standards (this deals with working in confined vessels such as tanks in mills). The committee tried to assess how the changes would impact the industry, and what suggestions the industry could make if it didn’t agree with what the CSA was recommending.
The committee also works with safety statistics. These are received from Workplace Safety North, which is the current incarnation of the Mines Accident Prevention Association of Ontario, the previous safety overseer for the mining industry. Statistics are produced on “Medical Aids” (any injury that requires the attention of a medical professional such as a doctor or dentist), and “Lost Time Injuries” (an injury serious enough to cause a worker to miss the next scheduled day’s work with the approval of a medical professional).
Lost time injuries can be reported in injuries per 100 workers, which is the same as injuries per 200,000 hours worked, as workers work about 2,000 hours per year. While companies log all types of injuries, including first aid, the safety association does not keep first aid data.
1976 was a pivotal year for safety in the mining industry in Ontario. The Ham Commis¬sion Report published that year included more than 100 recommendations concerning mining health and safety. Dr. James Ham, the report’s author, also discussed the manage¬ment of health and safety in the workplace. He introduced the Internal Responsibility System for the performance of work, and the concept of “safe production”, which would require the cooperation of government, employers, and workers to improve health and safety practices in the workplace.
In 1976, the industry had a lost time frequency (LTF) of over 12 for every 100 workers, according to Blogg. By 1996, the LTF was just over three injuries per 100 workers and in June 2010 the LTF was 0.3 workers per every 100 workers. Total medical aid, that is everyone who was injured, dropped from 20 men per 100 to 4 men per 100. “That shows a dramatic shift,” Blogg notes. “Not only are people not getting seriously injured, they are not getting injured to the point they need medical attention.”
Another milestone was the 1981 Burkett Commission. The commission was appointed in part because of concerns about the unusually high number of mining fatalities the previous year. When the report was released it contained 83 recommendations involving nine topics, including worker training.
Since the release of the Ham Commission Report, accident frequency has been trending downward. This is due to a number of factors including the introduction of a common skills program, union cooperation, the implementation of many of the Ham Commission recommendations, improved focus on safety management systems, and training. The Common Core Training Program is under the aegis of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Training modules are developed based on the needs of the industry. All program changes or recommendations are discussed and decided by the Mining Tripartite Committee members, who are also responsible for ensuring the development of the modules for the program and any changes that may be necessary. Any amendments to this program must be agreed to by all parties of the Mining Tripartite Committee.
The Common Core program has been recently updated with the introduction of new training modules and proposals to eliminate some old modules for processes that are no longer used in the industry.
“The way in which management has changed in how it looks at unions and addresses the health and safety concerns of workers has had a lot to do with the building of an environment where people work together better than they did prior to 1976,” says Blogg.
Health and safety should never be adversarial. It is everybody’s responsibility.
If you teach people to do the job right, they will do it safely automatically, Blogg argues, adding that the safety management system and safety training becomes a support mechanism for a skill training program. “Rather than just depending on the safety training to make people safe,” he explains, “you have to develop a culture, and that culture starts from day one when somebody starts to work for a mining company.”
The Safety and Training Advisory committee is currently providing input into the Occupational Research Cancer Centre (OCRC), which is looking at the health effects of shift work. The first of its kind in Canada, the OCRC was established in 2009 to fill the gap in our knowledge of occupation-related cancers and to translate these findings into preventive programs to control exposure to workplace carcinogens and improve the health of workers.
The committee has also reviewed Bill 168, Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace), which came into force in June. The committee encourages members to ensure that they meet standards in the new legislation, which includes new risk assessments, policies, and training programs.
Looking to the future, St. Jean sees the committee working on increasing awareness of risk management, identifying hazards, assessing risks, and dealing with energy sources that workers interact with daily. “It is all about risk,” he says. “You can’t eliminate all hazards so you have to manage risk every day.”