Working with the government, unions and MASHA to improve Safety
In 2000, A.C. (Andy) Rickaby will complete his second two-year term as chairman of the Ontario Mining Association (OMA). His first term was a decade ago. His “real” job is vice-president, mining operations for Denison Mines Limited.
Rickaby has been a member of the OMA’s board of directors over two decades.
Q: A year ago, in an interview for this magazine you mentioned the launch of a new safety initiative by the Ontario Mining Association called the Serious Incidents Committee. Why was this committee established?
A: Today, mining is among the safest industries in the province. Over the past two decades, the mining sector’s safety performance has improved by 89.6% when looking at lost-time accident frequency rates. The lost-time injury rate has improved to 1.3 per 200,000 hours worked in 1998 from 3.1 in 1990. The industry’s safety performance is really excellent in general. There is improvement in all areas of safety measurement except serious incidents and fatal accidents. These are areas that need work, and the committee was established to reduce these incidents.
Q: What is a serious incident?
A: A serious incident is one that causes, or has the potential to cause, fatalities or debilitating injuries for life.
Q: Do these types of incidents occur often in mines in Ontario?
A: Any fatality is unacceptable. Our goal must be to eliminate fatalities at mine sites in Ontario. The Serious Incidents Committee is working to identify areas of risk and develop protocols to better control these risks in order to eliminate these occurrences.
Q: What has the Committee been doing?
A: The Serious Incident team, using information from the mines and the Mines & Aggregates Safety & Health Association (MASHA), has analyzed data concerning serious incidents. It has created 14 recommendations to reduce and eliminate serious incidents, and has travelled the province to present the Serious Incident program at mine sites and mining operations. The team has added impetus to various serious incident programs, whether they go by the name of “100% compliance” or “zero tolerance”. This is a dedicated group of mine managers working to gain the same improvement in traumatic injury rates as has been achieved in medical-aid and lost-time injury rates.
Q: Is the Ministry of Labour assisting the mining industry with this initiative?
A: The Ministry of Labour has launched an independent study, with input from companies and labour, that is looking into the workings of the internal responsibility system (IRS) in Ontario’s mines to ensure that it is up-to-date and working effectively. An independent consultant has been appointed to develop an up-to-date description of the IRS and to build an IRS audit tool to be used to assess the effectiveness of the IRS at any given mine. This will make mines safer and healthier.
Q: Why is there so much emphasis on the IRS?
A: The IRS has been the cornerstone of the Occupational Health and Safety Act since 1978. The study will describe the roles, responsibility, authority and accountability of workers and management in ensuring their workplace is safe and healthy in a way that meets today’s needs.
Q: What is the goal of this IRS study?
A: The main outcome is for there to be a clearer understanding of everyone’s role within the IRS, an assessment of the current state of the IRS in the mines, and the development of an audit tool that can be used by mining operations and the Ministry of Labour to assess the effectiveness of the IRS system at their operations. The independent study is also to produce findings that can be used by each mine to improve safety, to define the data to monitor the success of the IRS and to promote co-operation among the Ministry of Labour, industry, labour and MASHA.
Q: Does the OMA support this government initiative?
A: From the perspective of the OMA, we support the involvement of the Ministry of Labour along with unions and MASHA, and we are confident that through the efforts of all parties involved we can continue to improve the safety performance of this industry. Co-operation and concerted effort is required by workers, employers, supervisors, unions, associations, suppliers and the Ministry of Labour to improve safety and make the initiative a success.
Q: What comes next on the safety front?
A: In safety, we must start with the premise that there is always room for improvement, and we must continue to strive to improve. The Serious Incident Committee and the IRS audit, which was one of the 14 recommendations of the Serious Incident team, are two important and inter-linked initiatives that can foster that improvement.