NEWS RELEASE: Ryan trophy winners show safety performance gains over the decades

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.

Safety performances in Canada’s and Ontario’s mining industries have made steady progress over the decades. The John T. Ryan Safety Trophies recognition program has been a contributing component to that ongoing improvement since 1941.

Winning a Ryan trophy is not happenstance. It is the result of clear messages being given from senior management, a dedication to safety throughout the entire workforce, training, communications, workers knowing they matter – that they matter a lot — and the evolution of a safety culture. There are numerous mining operations in Canada, which have found a winning formula. They are leading the way in safety and providing best practice models not just for mining but for all industries.

A look back through some past committee minutes of this 72 year old program provides some insight. For the record, the 2012 John T. Ryan national winner in the metal mine category was Xstrata Copper Kidd Operations in Timmins, now Kidd Operations (Glencore). It had a reportable injury rate 0.16 per 200,000 hours worked. This mine, which started operations through predecessor companies in 1965, is the deepest base metal mine in the world. In 2012, the operation experienced no lost time injuries and two modified work injuries during more than 2.5 million hours worked.

So how does this measure up over time? The files show that the national Ryan metal mine winner in 1963 – 50 years ago – was Gaspe Copper Mines with a compensable injury rate of 1.9. The winner in 1972 was Mattagami Mines limited with a rate of 1.36 and the winner in 1982 was Kidd Creek Mine #2 with an injury rate of 1.0. While operating under different ownership and different names, this Timmins operation has won national safety honours 11 times.

For comparative purposes, the national winner in the coal category for 2012 was Prairie Mines & Royalty’s Genesee Mine in Alberta. It had a reportable injury rate of zero for the calendar year 2012 and is also an 11-time winner of a national Ryan safety trophy. Fifty years ago, Century Coals Limited’s Atlas Mine in Alberta won the national trophy in the coal mine category with a compensable injury rate of 3.06.

The criteria and the formulae for determining Ryan safety trophy winners over the decades have changed. Recalculations were carried out to make the comparative numbers as close as possible. The current yardstick is the reportable injury rate which includes lost time and modified work incidents. Statistics can never tell the whole story and safety recognition is a small – but important — contributor to overall safety performance.

The benchmark for capturing a national Ryan trophy has become near perfection – or in some cases perfection itself. It is a passion for safety that creates safe workplaces and the Ryan trophies have come to symbolize that passion for safety being converted to success. The goal for all is zero frequency and any goal less than zero is not worthy.

The Ryan Trophy Safety competition began in 1941 when the Mine Safety Appliances Company of Canada — now MSA Canada Inc. — donated a trophy to encourage the safe production of minerals as part of Canada’s wartime effort. The Canadian Institute of Mining gladly accepted these awards and the mining sector’s national professional development organization has been presenting these symbols of safety excellence at its annual conferences ever since.

Subsequently, the competition expanded to include a coal trophy in 1942 and a select mine trophy in 1970. These much-treasured trophies are representative of the premier safety competition in mining. With occupational health and safety being provincial jurisdiction in Canada, very few industries have truly Canada-wide safety award systems and the mining industry’s national safety honours program is believed to have the greatest longevity.

The OMA has provided administrative, secretarial and scorekeeping services for the John T. Ryan Safety Trophies competition for 72 years, since its inception in 1941. The success of the Ryan trophies program in Canada has led to it being adopted, adapted and exported to other mining nations.

Ryan trophies first made their appearance in Chile in 1996, in Peru in 1999 and in South Africa in 2011. Inquiries from mine safety experts in other countries around the world are fielded annually by the Ryan secretariat.