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Recommendations from Stobie Mine inquest highlight safety oversights

Coroner's inquest releases 24 recommendations


(Canadian OH&S News) — A coroner’s jury has released its recommendations from the inquest into a double fatality at Vale’s Stobie Nickel Mine in Sudbury, Ontario. The inquest into the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram concluded on Thursday with the publication of 24 recommendations to improve mining safety.

Crown counsel, Vale and the union representing Stobie Mine workers all said they were pleased with the outcome of the inquest. “The jury, in our opinion, did a fantastic job,” said Joe Guido, recording secretary for the health, safety and environment executive committee at United Steelworkers Local 6500 in Sudbury.

“Ultimately, the 24 recommendations were what we were looking for and the next plan for us is trying to ensure that they’re implemented by the Ministry of Labour and the company.”

Susan Bruce, counsel to the coroner, said the jury’s recommendations had honoured the deceased workers. “If they are implemented, they will go a long way towards ensuring that workers in Ontario are never killed by another run of muck in a mine.”

The jury accepted all eight recommendations put forward by presiding inquest coroner Dr. David Eden and suggested an additional 16. Sixteen recommendations were directed at the Ministry of Labour.

Some of the recommendations to the Ministry included: ensuring workers are located out of the way of uncontrolled material, water or slime; implementing the recommendations in the Mining, Health, Safety and Prevention Review regarding water management and the Internal Responsibility System; requiring a supervisor to attend workplaces every work shift when high-risk tasks are being performed; ensuring that if there is a hazardous condition and the area is barricaded, work is only done after being authorized by a supervisor; and forming a database of field visits and coroner’s inquest recommendations in the province to be reviewed during inspector training.

After the Mining Legislative Review Committee has reviewed the recommendations and reached a consensus, that advice will be passed on to the Minister of Labour for consideration. The process could take anywhere from six months to a six years, according to Guido.

“It’s a tedious process; however, if there is political will from the Ontario government then it can be done relatively quickly.”

During the inquest, all sides were cooperative, Guido said. “We were all there for the same thing. We don’t ever want to see this happen again.”

However, over the two weeks of the proceedings, he said it was very difficult for family members to hear details of how their loved ones had died.

Clifford Bastien perished in a similar incident at the Stobie Mine in 1995. The inquest into Bastien’s death recommended putting workers out of harm’s way by ensuring all control valves are located outside the Ross Feeder control/gate. The Chenier and Fram inquest reiterated those recommendations in clearer terms.

“It is recommended to the Ministry of Labour that no worker shall be positioned so that he or she may be endangered by an uncontrolled run of material, water or slime, while operating controls for moving material,” the document states.

In future, Vale plans to ensure that recommendations coming out of inquests and other major incidents are followed through on. “That is certainly something that we are going to concentrate on moving forward,” said Angie Robson, corporate affairs manager at Vale’s Sudbury operations.

Following an internal investigation, Vale implemented 42 recommendations on safety at the mine, which have been endorsed by the jury. Robson said Vale would review the further recommendations made by the jury.

Chenier, 35, and Fram, 26, were transferring muck through a transfer gate at an ore pass on June 8, 2011 when a sudden release of muck and water broke through the gate. As a result of the accident both miners died from smothering and compressional asphyxia; Chenier also suffered blunt force injuries. After pleading guilty to three of six charges in 2013, Vale received the largest oh&s fine ever issued in Ontario for the violations.