NEWS RELEASE: Preliminary mining safety review panel report initiates early actions

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 Ontario Ministry of Labour Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review’s progress report, which was released last week, is already leading to changes making positive impacts on mining health and safety. This panel started work in January 2014 with the target date for the release of a final report planned for early 2015.

Ontario Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis is leading the review, along with Fergus Kerr, industry co-chair, and John Perquin, labour co-chair. Key initiatives, which have been enacted upon already, include guidance on high visibility safety apparel by mine workers, updating joint health and safety committee certification training and advancing research.

Over the past six months, the review has held 12 public consultations, in which more than 150 people participated, and it has received more than 60 written submissions. In the key issues section of the progress report, it states “At public consultations and in written submissions, the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) was the most discussed topic. Stakeholders are unanimous in their view that an effective IRS is key to safe workplaces.”

Other Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review 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 is provided by Candys Ballanger-Michaud, Chief Executive Officer 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.

At its first meeting in January, the advisory group identified six key health and safety issues and a working group was established to deal with each of these concerns. The topics are the effectiveness of health and safety systems, impacts of new technologies, the IRS, training and labour supply issues, health and safety hazards and emergency preparedness.

“These people were invited to participate based on their demonstrated commitment to occupational health and safety in the mining sector,” said Mr. Gritziotis. “Their willingness to work together in a spirit of collaboration, mutual respect and problem-solving is integral to the success of the review.”

The Ontario Mining Association would like to acknowledge the contributions of industry co-chair Mr. Kerr and all working group members while expressing appreciation for the time and expertise volunteered on these important working panels by employees of member companies. They include Fred St. Jean from Vale, Robert Bianchin from Glencore, Shannon Campbell from Glencore, John LeClair form Goldcorp, Frank Demers from Vale and Jamie Mortson from Lake Shore Gold, respectively.

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 Mining Health, Safety and Prevention 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 OMA believes that lessons learned through the review will benefit both mining and other industrial sectors,” said OMA President Chris Hodgson. “The Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review should focus on positive outcomes and clear recommendations that can be implemented in the short term, as well as innovative practices that will guide us in the future.”