On the whole, Ontario’s mines are safer now than they’ve ever been, according to statistics published by the Mines Accident Prevention Association Ontario (MAPAO).
Injuries resulting in lost time for workers dropped to a rate of 4.7 in 1985. That’s a 22% improvement over 1984. Furthermore the rate has been declining steadily since 1980 when it stood at 7.8.
On the other hand, the frequency of deaths resulting from mining accidents, though down 50% from 1984, remains “unacceptable,” MAPAO says in its annual report.
“If we knew why the fatality rate hasn’t dropped as steadily as the rate of other accidents, we would do something about it,” MAPAO President Bob Brailey told The Northern Miner. “But we don’t know why.” The association has therefore begun an intense research effort in order to reduce the frequency of fatalities among miners. In particular, it is investigating deaths resulting from transportation accidents.
The drop in the industry’s non- fatal accident rate during the past five years is partly the result of MAPAO’s mine safety audit system, Mr Brailey said. The system determines how effectively mine managers train their workers in mine safety. Called the International Loss Control Institute 5-Star Rating System, it was adopted in 1981 after MAPAO split from the Ontario Mining Association and doubled its annual budget to $2 million from $1 million.
Here’s how it works: Two qualified auditors from the mining industry are chosen by MAPAO to evaluate a mine over a period of two to three days. They ask the mine managers questions about the safety policy of the mine and then observe the degree to which workers are familiar with the policy. They also crawl throughout the mine, examining the process by which accidents are reported and investigated. Finally the auditors write a report and rate the mine, on a scale of one star to five stars, in terms of the quality of its safety program. MAPAO believes the 5-star rating system acts as an incentive for mining companies to compete with each other in the area of mine safety. Thirty such audits were completed in 1985.
The audit program has been very successful, Mr Brailey said. “But we have trouble keeping track of the diamond drillers and the mining contractors because they tend to be small outfits.”
While the rate of non-fatal accidents in Ontario’s mining industries has fallen, total accident frequency for all Ontario industries has actually risen. Referring to recent attacks on provincial safety associations, launched by the opposition parties at Queen’s Park, Mr Brailey said it’s not fair that MAPAO has been lumped together with the other eight associations.
“We’re not typical of those other associations,” he insisted. “Our accident rate has been declining.”
Other Ontario safety associations include the Construction Safety Association and the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, among others. Funding for the associations, in the form of $34 million, comes from the Worker’s Compensation Board. The board achieves its funds by placing a levy on employers. Falconbridge Ltd., for example, pays $9.75 per $100 of payroll for compensation. That adds up to $7 million a year from that company alone.