While statistics can't always tell the whole story, recent numbers indicate Ontario's mining sector is making further progress on the safety front. For the first three months of 2013, the provincial mining sector had a lost time injury frequency of 0.2 per 200,000 hours worked. This compares with a rate of 0.4 for the first three months of 2012 – a 50% improvement.
This new level of safety performance by the sector was achieved by more than 18,300 men and women working more than 9.3 million hours at mine sites across the province during the quarter. For the same period in 2013, a total medical aid frequency of 4.4 per 200,000 hours worked was achieved compared with a rate of 4.8 for the first three months of 2012 – an 8.3% improvement.
For all of 2012, mining's lost time injury rate was 0.5, a gain from 0.6 per 200,000 hours worked in 2011. The industry's previous best lost time injury rate over a quarterly, or yearly, period was 0.4. The industry's total medical injury rate for all of 2012 was 5.5, which was up slightly from 5.3 in 2011. In 2012, approximately 18,700 employees at mine sites in Ontario worked a total of more than 38.3 million hours.
Ontario's mining industry has a collective goal of zero harm in the workplace by 2015. By any yardstick, the mining industry in Ontario has an exemplary record of improving its safety performance. Since 1976, the sector's lost time injury rate has improved by 96%. This same measurement has improved by 81% since 1989 and 73% since 1993. What was an industry-wide lost time injury rate of 12 per 200,000 hours in 2002, has declined steadily – but not continuously – to the 0.2 range for the first quarter of 2013.
However, the closer you get to zero, the less room there is for improvement and the harder it becomes to make gains. While nothing can be taken for granted in safety, the lost time injury rate of 0.2 for the first quarter, is worth noting. It can also be important as a springboard to continued improvement.
Ontario's mining industry is one of the safest mining jurisdictions in the world. Also, while many hold the antiquated perception of mines as dangerous workplaces, the sector's safety performance outpaces many other sectors, which people erroneously believe are safer workplaces.
Since the Royal Commission Reports of Ham in 1976 and Burkett in 1981, Ontario's mining sector has increased its focus on ensuring workers receive the best training available. According to an economic study by the University of Toronto, Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario's Future, the mining industry in this province invests $1,800 per employee annually in training and health and safety initiatives.
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 day-in and day-out 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 goal.
*Peter McBride is the manager of communications at the Ontario Mining Association.