Excerpt from the OHS Canada magazine
A slew of occupational health and safety charges have been laid against mine operator Vale Limited in connection with a double fatality during the 2011 calendar year.
On June 8, 2011 at the company’s Stobie Mine in Sudbury, Ontario, about 350 tons of wet, sandy muck came barrelling down an ore pass. An investigation by Vale found that a crash gate into the area where supervisor Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were working was left open, and the muck, which had been stuck in the ore pass, came loose and flooded the area.
The workers were buried in the material and recovery efforts took almost an hour and a half (COHSN June 20, 2011).
A total of nine charges under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act have been laid against Vale, and another six against a supervisor with the company because of the double fatality.
“As this is a very serious matter, we need to consider the charges very carefully before we determine how we will proceed. Until that time, and as this is now before the court system, we will not be commenting further on this matter,” said Angie Robson, manager of corporate affairs for Vale’s Ontario operations, in a statement released at the end of May.
The statement noted that more than 30 recommendations for control measures are being implemented as a result of the company’s investigation.
In late February, an investigation report released by Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers union — done separately from the Vale investigation — called for a criminal investigation into the fatalities, charging that negligence on behalf of the company was responsible for the deaths.
The report also listed 165 recommendations to improve work conditions at the mine, such as the calling of a public inquiry into the hearings, as well as improvements to blasting procedures and changes to water drainage practices. The union also called for a review of mine safety in Canada, noting the last significant inquiry was 30 years ago.
In late May, Vale was charged with a variety of counts, including failing to:
1) Ensure workplaces within the mine were kept free from accumulation or water flows that could endanger workers;
2) Provide instruction and supervision to the deceased workers regarding the accumulation of water that might endanger workers in the area;
3) Prevent the movement of material through an ore pass while hazardous conditions existed;
4) Ensure that a transfer gate on an ore pass could be operated and monitored from a safe location;
5) Maintain the drain holes at the 2400-level of the mine;
6) Ensure that water, slimes and other wet material was not dumped into the number seven ore pass at the 2600-level of the mine; and,
7) Ensure that its “Wet Control Instruction for Pulling Wet Chute/Ore Pass” procedure was followed at the 3715 ore pass and the number seven ore pass.
Company Supervisor Faces Six OH&S Counts
The supervisor working at the mine was charged with failing to:
1) Ensure that the underground workplaces under his supervision were kept free from accumulation or flows of water which endangered workers in the area;
2) Prevent the movement of material through an ore pass while hazardous conditions existed;
3) Guard against an accumulation of water in the 3715 ore pass;
4) Control the flow of water in areas under his supervision;
5) Ensure that water, slimes and other wet material was not dumped into the number seven ore pass at the 2600-level;
6) Ensure that Vale’s “Wet Control Instruction for Pulling Wet Chute/Ore Pass” procedure was followed at the 3715 ore pass and the number seven ore pass.
The maximum fine for each charge against Vale is $500,000.
Individuals face a maximum of $25,000 for each charge and/or up to 12 months imprisonment.
There are 4 basic sectors in the workplace today. They are;
3) Mining, and
When a critical injury (definition under Ontario regulation 834) or a death occurs on either a construction site or a mine, the Coroner’s office MUST convene an “Inquest”. The Industrial and Healthcare sectors MAY have an inquest but it is not mandated.
It is so sad that proper SOPs were not discussed prior to the accident. It is too bad that ‘safe work procedures’ were not developed, and reviewed yearly, as required by law. Too bad the employees did not work for a safer employer.
I wonder if Vale has hired a CRSP or CHSEP to aid in building and using continuous improvement in their health and safety policies and procedures. Does it take a double fatality to ensure change? (Tell me what you think!)
Yes, my readership, it was too bad for Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Mining Safety’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
We can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.