NEWS RELEASE: Mine safety review launch draws media attention

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.

The inaugural meeting of the Ministry of Labour’s mine safety review panel attracted pretty well the full slate of Sudbury’s media representatives – print, radio and television; English and French; local and outlets with national affiliations. The Sudbury media had an opportunity to interview Ontario Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis, who is leading the review, along with Fergus Kerr, industry co-chair, and John Perquin, labour co-chair.

“It is about outcomes, responsiveness and comprehensiveness,” said Mr. Gritziotis, who was kept very busy by the high level of media interest. “It is about having a positive impact on the workplace as soon as possible, whether through regulation, mandatory training or best practices.”

The comprehensive mining safety review was announced by Ontario Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi just before the end of 2013. It is the next logical step in the ongoing process to improve the health and well-being of mineral industry employees and reach the goal of zero harm. The evidence-based review is to complete its work in 12 months.

Other panel members include Roger Emdin, Manager of Sustainable Development for Glencore’s Sudbury Operations, and Mike Bond, Chair of USW/Vale Safety, Health and Environment Executive Committee. Further safety expertise on the panel will be provided by Candys Ballanger-Michaud, Executive Director of Workplace Safety North, and Dr. Cameron Mustard, President and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Work & Health. Wendy Fram from Mines Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support is an observer to the advisory panel.

“The goal is to achieve sustainable and improved health and safety in every mining workplace in Ontario,” said Mr. Gritziotis to the media. “We need to do this collectively and with all stakeholders.”

“There are some good things out there we need to uncover and get out there even broader,” he added. “The advisory panel will meet six times in the year, in different parts of the province. It won’t call witnesses, but will instead conduct consultations, it is really about having conversations and taping into stakeholders.”

The attraction of the Sudbury media to this story should perhaps be considered a given. A tragic incident, which resulted in two fatalities in a Sudbury mine in 2011, was a catalyst for the evolution of this safety review panel.

According to an economic study by the University of Toronto – Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario’s Future – the mining industry in this province invests $1,800 per employee annually in training and health and safety initiatives. This sizeable year-in and year-out investment provides constructive actions to support achieving safety yardsticks.

Preliminary numbers for 2013 show the mining sector in Ontario with a lost time frequency of 0.4 per 200,000 hours worked, which marks an improvement from 0.5 in 2012 and 0.6 in 2011. These statistics place mining as one of the safest industries in the province.

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 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 involving employers, workers, unions, safety agencies, such as Workplace Safety North and the Prevention Council, and government are being taken to reach that ideal.

This safety review is a welcome and additional measure to help guide the industry on the continuing path of safety improvement and to help the industry collectively achieve that goal of zero harm. The Sudbury media will not be the only group keeping a close eye on the progress made by this panel.