Advancing safety in mining through better planning and practices in Ontario

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Ontario’s mining industry continues to move towards the goal of zero harm in the workplace by 2015. Every avenue is being explored to reach that target. A presentation by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis at a recent Ontario Mining Association board of directors meeting helps to provide light for the path forward.

“The Prevention Council held its first meeting on September 28 and one of its priorities is a renewed focus on the Internal Responsibility System,” said Mr. Gritziotis. “Health and safety is a tier one public good.” He is looking into having a mine in Northern Ontario participate in a pilot project concerning the re-emphasis on the IRS.

Roy Slack, President of mine contractor Cementation Canada, represents the mining sector and Northern Ontario on the Prevention Council and he was described by Mr. Gritziotis as a “true champion of health and safety.”

Mr. Gritziotis outlined the priorities of the Prevention Council. They include support in health and safety for small employers and small businesses, for vulnerable workers such as youth, immigrants and older workers and for those in high hazard sectors.

Other priorities include expanding capacity in occupational health and safety through partnerships to deliver services and leveraging existing programs and budgets. Also, to advance health and safety in all workplaces, the Chief Prevention Officer would like to see the planning and delivery of services being carried out in a more integrated fashion.

“I want to take the best parts of the occupational health and safety system that have been working independently and get them to work together more collectively,” said Mr. Gritziotis.

The OMA, which holds its high school video competition So You Think You Know Mining — that is now entering its fifth season — near and dear to its heart, noted with interest the recent launch of the Prevention Council’s “It’s Your Job . . .Prevention Starts Here” young worker video competition. “The video competition is generating a lot of attention to the future of our country – our youth – and it helps improve awareness of health and safety.”

Mr. Gritziotis was appointed as Chief Prevention Officer last year, when the government followed up on several recommendations from the Dean Report on occupational health and safety. Previously, he was executive director of the Construction Sector Council.

While statistics can’t always tell the whole story, recent numbers indicate Ontario’s mining sector is making further progress on the safety front. The lost time injury rate up to the end of September 2012 was 0.4 per 200,000 hours worked, which is a 33% improvement, from the rate of 0.6 for 2011. Similarly, the total medical aid frequency for the sector is down to 5.4 for the first nine months of 2012, a 10% gain from the rate of 6.0 for 2011.

Overall, employees in the Ontario mining industry are safe, highly skilled, highly paid and highly productive. While the safety performance of Ontario’s mining industry day-in and day-out is certainly worthy of recognition, no one in the industry would consider it good enough until it reaches zero harm. Collective efforts on many fronts – including the work of the Chief Prevention Officer and the Prevention Council – are being taken to reach that goal.