Dec '11/Jan '12

Safety

Room for improvement

By H. Ednie

Survey targets rough patches on the road to safety performance

The sixth edition of the Canadian Mineral Exploration Health and Safety Annual Report, to be released this winter, may unlock some of the secrets to creating safer work environments. The report will focus on the Canadian exploration industry and identify key trends and areas for improvement. Born of a partnership between the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the report will give companies factual information on which to build workplace guidelines.

AME BC has an extensive history of surveying performance and striving for improved safety at exploration sites in British Columbia. “The annual report created from the safety survey complements the other efforts of the AME BC Health and Safety Committee,” says Gavin C. Dirom, president and CEO, of AME BC. “The information and lessons learned that are contained in the report can translate into modifying behaviours and developing new tools for companies to improve their safety records. With the results from the annual safety survey, we have real, factual information to act upon. We can then work with government and industry to improve guidelines, modify regulations, promote best practices or even stop activities that are identified as being unsafe.”

Lena Brommeland, executive vice-president, project services, at Hunter Dickinson, sits on the PDAC Health and Safety Committee and says the study report is a helpful resource in her company’s continuous efforts to improve safety performance. With each report, she and her team read through the incidents, seeking out trends and useful information. “We use it as a source to identify areas we can improve, and we act upon it,” she says.

According to the results of the survey in the 2009 Annual Report, three main trends continue to be the major safety challenges for the Canadian exploration industry:

  • Slips, trips and falls are the number one cause of incidents.
  • Airborne (specifically helicopter) accidents are the primary cause of fatalities.
  • A high incident rate centres around diamond drilling activities.

Information like this helps the industry take action. “For example, we’re working jointly with government agencies and industry to identify measures to address the significant issue of helicopter-related fatalities in our sector,” Dirom says. “With concrete information to build upon, we can work with other organizations to determine what can be done.”

However, the exploration industry still has a way to go to realize its potential safety record. Not everyone is committed to safety, which is evidenced by the number of respondents to the survey. “Yes, we’ve seen year-on-year growth in our respondents, which is positive,” Brommeland says. “We had 349 last year. But considering that here in Vancouver there are 800 exploration companies operating within a six-block radius and that on the TSX there are over 1,200 exploration companies listed, there are a lot of companies not participating in this survey.”

Despite the rate of respondents, there is strong support for creating a culture of safety and encouraging leadership throughout the exploration industry. “Through the sharing of information and addressing the issues head-on, we can make substantial improvements in safety,” Dirom adds. “It is a proactive approach to preventing actual incidents and the near hits of the future from occurring in the first place.”

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