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Ontario welcomes conclusions of mining-safety review

Ontario Ministry of Labour accepts report’s 18 recommendations on mining safety


(Canadian OH&S News) — Following the release of the final report from its Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Advisory Group, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has accepted all 18 of the report’s recommendations for making the province’s mining industry safer.

The 66-page report, released on April 15, is based on an extensive review of occupational health and safety concerns in the Ont. mining sector, a review that Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis initiated by request of the provincial government in late 2013. Gritziotis assembled the Advisory Group, which spent about 16 months researching many aspects of the industry’s oh&s system, including the effects of technological changes on safety, the system’s ability to meet the sector’s needs, ground stability, water-management practices and occupational diseases.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and Member of Provincial Parliament Glenn Thibeault accepted the report in Sudbury on the day of its publication, according to a press release from the MOL.

“A number of excellent people worked cooperatively and very hard on this review, and I would like to thank them all for taking part in this substantial undertaking,” Flynn said in a press statement. “Though Ontario is one of the safest jurisdictions in the world to work, mining remains a high-risk occupation. I’m confident that the work done by the advisory group will increase safety in our mines and save lives.

“This report and its recommendations are great news for the people of Sudbury and miners throughout Ontario,” said Thibeault in a statement.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Mandatory risk assessments by mining employers;
  • Requirement for mining companies to keep records of seismic events, ground-instability incidents and key elements of ground hazard control;
  • Formal plans by employers to manage the risks of occupational disease;
  • Mandatory water-management programs;
  • Formal traffic-management plans for underground mines; and
  • Official mining-sector risk assessments conducted by the MOL with employers and labour organizations every three years.

“These efforts are important, because the only way we will eliminate workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities is if we stay on this path of continuous improvement,” the report concluded. “This is not the endpoint of the process put in place to improve mining health and safety; in fact, there is a lot to do.

“The aim is to integrate occupational health and safety improvements while supporting innovation and fostering productivity in the sector,” the report added.

The United Steelworkers (USW), which represents mining workers in the province, announced on April 15 that it endorsed the MOL’s report and recommendations.

“These recommendations must lead to meaningful change,” said USW’s Ontario director, Marty Warren, in a press release. “That means health and safety improvements that will be enforceable in order to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.”

Warren added that the USW expected immediate implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Now Ontario’s miners and their families expect and deserve to see swift, meaningful action that will tangibly improve health and safety in this industry,” he said.

“Improving health and safety in the mining industry must also include continued efforts to prevent occupational diseases,” said USW health and safety coordinator Sylvia Boyce.

Gritziotis’ Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Advisory Group is led by John Perquin, USW’s assistant to the international secretary-treasurer, as labour vice chair and Fergus Kerr, vice president of operations with Global Atomic Fuels Corporation, as employer vice chair. Among the other members: Mike Bond, health, safety and environment committee chair for USW Local 6500; Cam Mustard, president of the Institute for Work and Health; and Workplace Safety North CEO Candys Ballanger.

The Advisory Group’s report can be downloaded from the MOL website at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/mining_final_report.pdf.