The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
It was a good day for the mining industry, but it came about as a result of tragedy. But four initiatives that go effect immediately will improve the health and well-being of workers in Ontario’s mines, says Labour Minister Kevin Flynn.
He provided an update on his government’s Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review on Wednesday at the Willet Green Miller Centre.
That came one day after Flynn paid his first visit to a mine, descending to the 5,000-foot level at Vale’s Coleman Mine in Levack. The underground visit gave him a better understanding of the safety issues miners face every day.
The progress report calls for action in four areas that “jumped off the page” for the mining review advisory panel in the eight months it has been meeting, said Flynn.
The province is setting out to improve the visibility of workers through increased promotion of high visibility apparel. That is a guideline for now, but it could be enacted into law when the final report of the mining review is presented to Flynn early in the new year.
The province is also developing a mining health database to track incidents of illness and exposure to carcinogenic substances, helping to prevent miners from being exposed to unsafe levels and assisting in the development of improved health and safety rules.
The province is creating a sharper focus on hazards to improve health and well-being in new training standards for joint health and safety committees, comprised of workers and management.
It is also funding a study by Laurentian University to look for ways to reduce loss of feeling in the feet caused by the continuous use of vibrating machinery. That puts workers at greater risk of slips and falls injuries, especially on high work platforms;
When asked why the review didn’t address factors identified in the deaths of two men at Stobie Mine in June 2011 — excess water and the removal of protective barriers — Flynn said those issues are being looked at and the final report will likely contain recommendations relating to them.
Ontario’s chief prevention officer, George Gritziotis, is heading the review. He said excess water in mines and the proper use of barricades are being examined.
Since the Stobie deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram, the Ministry of Labour has been putting a “particular focus” on inspections for those hazards.
“What the review is doing is looking at sustainable change, so we’re also looking at the prevention side of it, but we are addressing those with a much more intense focus on both the inspection and the enforcement side as well,” he said.
Flynn said the full-blown mining inquiry many had asked for in Sudbury would have resulted in a process that would have been costly and protracted, that might have produced a report that would have been shelved and its recommendations not acted upon.
The review and its recommendations can be acted upon quickly.
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