‘Zero harm’ safety remains our core focus
Ontario’s mining industry is highly diverse, comprising companies big and small that extract and process a wide range of mineral commodities, including gold, nickel, copper, salt, diamonds and a number of industrial minerals. Notwithstanding the differences among the 85 companies represented by the Ontario Mining Association, they have one fundamental thing in common: the safety of workers is their number one priority. By extension, safety is always at the top of the association’s agenda.
In seeking continual improvement of our health and safety performance, Ontario miners have made considerable strides, achieving a 96% improvement in lost-time injury frequency over the past 30 years. This makes Ontario one of the safest mining jurisdictions in the world and mining one of the safest industries in the province.
While the improving LTI trend is a source of pride and encouragement, the fact that injuries and fatalities continue to occur serves as a painful reminder of the work that remains to be done. No fatality is acceptable, and the ultimate goal for any Ontario mining company is to achieve a zero-incident work environment. We firmly believe that any workplace injury is preventable and that every worker has the right to return home safely to their family each night.
To that end, mining companies devote considerable time and resources to promoting an ingrained workplace safety culture. This includes measures such as adopting appropriate systems and policies, training employees, engaging in risk assessment, measuring performance, rewarding achievement and adopting best practices from around the world.
OMA members recognize that mining involves significant health and safety challenges as it is carried out in demanding environments with many unique hazards that must be mitigated. For OMA members, a strong safety record is a critical driver in becoming employers of choice, and enhancing partnerships with host governments and communities.
The Ministry of Labour-led Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review enabled exemplary collaboration among labour, safety agencies and employers, resulting in 18 recommendations that will undoubtedly bring us closer to our shared goal of zero harm in the workplace. Led by George Gritziotis, Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer, the mining review brought together outstanding expertise in mining health and safety: Fergus Kerr as Employer Vice Chair and John Perquin as Labour Vice Chair; Mike Bond and Roger Emdin as representatives of the Mining Legislative Review Committee; Candys Ballanger- Michaud of Workplace Safety North and Dr. Cameron Mustard of the Institute for Work & Health; and Wendy Fram from Mines Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support as an Observer to the Advisory Group. Through our representatives, the OMA was pleased to contribute to the work of the Advisory Group, as well as the six working groups, each of which had worker and employer representation.
The Chief Prevention Officer’s final report focuses on areas such as risk assessment, water management, enhancing ground control protection, managing hazards, emergency response, and developing an Internal Responsibility System best practice guideline – outlining measures that can be implemented in the short term, as well as innovative practices that will guide us in the future
We wholeheartedly support the report’s recommendations and. believe that they will benefit not just Ontario miners, but also other sectors in our economy, while building upon the safety expertise that we can offer to other jurisdictions
As the recommendations are implemented, we will continue to make safety an urgent priority every day, keeping workplaces focused on staying safe and healthy through teamwork and leadership. The ‘zero harm’ safety vision remains our core focus in 2016 and beyond.