The United Steelworkers (USW) calls an interim report from Ontario’s Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review “a good first step” but say more work in needed to improve health and safety in the industry.
The progress report’s recommendation of a new guideline calling for high-visibility apparel for workers in underground mines is a good start, but the USW would like to see the province pass a regulation requiring the apparel.
Sylvia Boyce, USW Health and Safety Coordinator in Ontario, points out the numerous injuries and fatalities that have occurred underground because workers operating mobile equipment couldn’t see coworkers in their path.
"A guideline, which is based on best practices, is not enforceable. Without a regulation, employers can't be forced to implement the improvements,” she says.
She adds the USW would like to see the Mining Legislative Review Committee recommend the Minister of Labour implement a regulation dictating use of high-visibility apparel quickly.
The USW would also like to see expanded databases to preserve mining health, safety and medical records – including more comprehensive historical records, such as miners’ chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests. It also recommends measures to capture data for current and future workers.
Another concern is the harmful effects of foot vibration on miners. The USW was happy to see the recommendation a study be done on that issue, but say a more comprehensive study on whole body vibration and its debilitating effects is needed.
The USW also has high hopes that the advisory group’s final report due early next year will contain recommendations addressing water management as a top priority, Ontario Director Marty Warren says.