Blog Post #147 – B.C. Mining Industry – Confined Space Tragedy Spurs Hopeful Change

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine

The deaths of four people who were simply doing their jobs at the Sullivan Mine reclamation project near Kimberley, British Columbia have prompted changes that provincial officials hope will avert similar loss of life in future.

Investigations by the chief inspector of mines and recommendations flowing from the provincial inquest provided the foundation for revisions to the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia, says Kevin Krueger, minister of state for mining.

The code is the primary vehicle for regulation of British Columbia’s mining industry from exploration through to development, closure and reclamation, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources reports. The amendments include adopting new reporting requirements for mine managers in the event of an accident or dangerous occurrence, and creating consistency with WorkSafeBC standards.

Says Krueger, “The accident at Sullivan Mine forever changed the way we operate mines and mine reclamation sites in the province.”

When a mining contractor mysteriously disappeared at Teck Cominco’s Sullivan mine, a second man was sent to look for him.

He found the contractor’s body.

The man led two other rescuers to the body. All three died.

The contractor had gone for a routine monthly check on the quality of the water that was being collected from the decommissioned mine’s waste rock pile.

To do that, he had to go into a small plywood shed that’s about three metres by three metres by 21/2 metres high. In the shed, there’s a sump pump and pipes coming in and going out. There’s also a small reservoir or weir from which samples are taken to test the water’s quality.

It was the contractor’s job to monitor the quality of that water at each of the sheds along the pipeline that extends about a kilometre from the collection channels around the waste rock dumps to Teck Cominco’s treatment plant.

The contractor did the sampling once a month. On a normal day, he would have made a notation and left.
Monday was not a normal day. Something had caused an oxygen deficiency and likely before he even knew what had happened, the contractor died.

But no alarm was raised until early Wednesday morning. The contractor’s partner called Teck Cominco to report the man missing. Teck dispatched one of its employees to the shed. According to witnesses interviewed by the RCMP, the Teck employee got to the site, found the contractor’s body and called 911.

The B.C. Ambulance Service dispatched one ambulance and called the Kimberley fire department. According to the RCMP, two paramedics — Kim Weitzel, 35, and Shawn Currier, 21 — met the Teck employee at the site and went to the shed. None of them came out.

My opinion

How did 2 paramedics not understand, and be trained in, a possible confined space entry? Why was this not pre-determined that it could be a possible a dangerous confined space?

As one can plainly see, a mine reclamation project is a great undertaking, one that is attempting to bring a former mining project back to the original natural, pristine setting. The governments all across Canada need to review their policies concerning mine reclamation and put together a plan that will include all safety awareness and a description of the possible hazards that may surround the projects including, as was found here, ‘Confined Space Entry’.

The health and safety professional needs to incorporate health and safety into the planning stage prior to any work project. It looks like WorkSafe BC has considered that change is necessary so that future accidents in mine reclamation can be avoided through hazard awareness and hazard training.

Remember — In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

37 thoughts on “Blog Post #147 – B.C. Mining Industry – Confined Space Tragedy Spurs Hopeful Change”

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