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II. Key Issues Identified to Date

  • Issued: September 10, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: September 2014
  • See also: Final Report

During the consultation sessions, in the written submissions and in Advisory Group and Working Group meetings, the Chief Prevention Officer heard many views. Although some views differ, stakeholders share the same desired outcomes: everyone wants to make sure miners come home safe and healthy at the end of every shift.

Here is an overview of the issues identified to date. (For a more detailed description of stakeholder input, see Appendix C.)

  1. At public consultations and in written submissions, the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) was the most-discussed topic. Stakeholders are unanimous in their view that an effective IRS is key to safe workplaces. They agree that it’s important for the sector to have a common understanding of the IRS, based on the principles laid out in the Ham Commission report and that implementation in the workplace is key. However, they had different opinions about whether that common understanding or definition of the IRS should be part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  2. The role of the Ministry of Labour inspector and enforcement practices were raised in all forums.
    • Stakeholders generally agree that the Ministry of Labour should improve the inspectorate’s technical capacity and the consistency of their enforcement action. Opinions differed on the role of the ministry inspector in the workplace. The majority thought the inspector should be a check on the system and rigorously enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act through unannounced workplace inspections. However, some thought inspectors should play a more consultative role.
    • In general, stakeholders think that, as an enforcement agency, the Ministry of Labour needs more technical capacity to be able to identify the complex issues related to reducing or mitigating major mining hazards. In their view, the perceived lack of technical resources makes it difficult for the ministry to identify and resolve issues related to new technology and/or production methods or to provide the workplace with timely information.
  3. While stakeholders believe that the hazards in the mining industry that may result in traumatic injury are well understood, they are concerned about the system’s ability to ensure adequate controls are in place and being used. For example, they think there should be effective mitigation strategies for well-known hazards such as the accumulation of water, fall of ground and risks associated with mobile equipment.
  4. Stakeholders are concerned that hazards that can result in chronic injuries are not being managed sufficiently. They are also concerned about potential occupational health hazards related to new technologies. Their perception that the ministry lacks the expertise or ability to provide prompt regulatory oversight heightens these concerns.
  5. All consultation sessions and many written submissions raised issues relating to line of sight of large equipment operators and discussed new technologies specifically designed to protect those who work in underground mines. Stakeholders recommended that the health and safety system make new “safety focused” technologies known to the industry. They also suggested that the health and safety system look for ways to share safety advances in one sector with others. For example, non-mining workplaces could be a source of information to improve mining safety, such as the use of high visibility garments in the construction sector.
  6. Stakeholders flagged several issues that are not currently a focus for the health and safety system such as fatigue, mental stress, and drug and alcohol use. In their view, these issues require more research and should be a greater priority within the system.
  7. In stakeholders’ view, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) needs more capacity to be able to assess the adequacy of controls put in place to reduce hazards. Underground mines are unique environments that rely on complex technical measures to keep them safe. It is essential that the system find ways to provide the JHSC with the expertise to understand potential hazards and evaluate mitigation strategies. Methods to transfer information learned in the investigation of incidents would be beneficial in developing the knowledge base of JHSC members.
  8. While stakeholders generally see new technology as a way to improve health and safety, they have some concerns that new technology or production methods may be introduced without employees being fully informed of why the change was made, how health and safety was considered in the process, how employees would be trained or what ongoing evaluation would be done. Some suggested that an industry best practice on change management could be one way to ensure employees are part of the change process and to protect employee health and safety.
  9. There was almost unanimous support for the Common Core modular training program in the mining sector. Any concerns about the program mainly focused on the quality of program delivery rather than the content – although supervisor training was raised as one area that needs review. Some stakeholders called for the development of better standards for trainers.
  10. Stakeholders praised both Workplace Safety North and the Worker’s Health and Safety Centre for the quality of their training. However the ability of Workplace Safety North to provide timely training in smaller and remote communities was raised as an issue.
  11. Some stakeholders proposed that mining be considered a registered trade and that appropriate apprentice programs be developed. In their view, providing an apprenticeship program will ensure that tacit knowledge is transferred from the more experienced miner to the apprentice. However, others are strongly opposed to this idea and feel that the current Common Core serves the sector well.
  12. There was across-the-board support for Ontario’s mine rescue system, including the current way that mine rescue is set up and operates. Despite this support, some stakeholders highlighted a need to evaluate the ability of mine rescue to respond to hazards created by new technologies and mining methods. There are some concerns about the ability to launch rescue operations as mines in Ontario get deeper and distances from the shaft increase. Some stakeholders proposed that management of mine rescue should be included in the Common Core requirement for Supervisors.
  13. Families of miners fatally injured at work – as well as many other stakeholders – identified the need for a more effective Coroner’s Inquest process. Opinions differed on how to improve the process. Some want Coroner’s jury recommendations to be mandatory. Others want the process to include mechanisms to ensure Coroner’s jury members receive better information on mining and mining practices as well as the relevant legislation.
  14. Some Advisory Group members, as well as others, suggested that the scope of the Review be expanded to also explore health and safety in above ground mining. Half of the fatalities in mining occur outside underground environments, so this part of the sector should not be ignored. The Review is exploring options for looking at this part of the mining sector once the underground mining review is complete.

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