Blog Post #769 – FNX Mining Company and Supervisor Fined $88,000

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

FNX Mining Company Inc. and one of its supervisors have pleaded guilty to safety violations at the Craig Mine in the City of Greater Sudbury and fined a total of $88,000.

On September 7, 2013, two workers at the mine were assigned the task of backfilling a stope (a production area of a mine from which ore is removed for processing).

Once the ore within the area of the stope has been removed, the stope is backfilled. The material used at Craig Mine for backfilling, called sandfill, consisted mainly of sand, cement and water; the cement component of the sandfill was capable of imparting caustic chemical burns when in contact with skin.

The mine was using a procedure that involved a single pipeline to apply the sandfill. As a stope was filled, a worker was required to enter the stope and remove 10-foot sections of the pipe so that the pouring of sandfill could proceed through the stope. The sand-fill material was pumped from a surface location.

At the stope in the incident, a worker would have to wade through accumulations of water and slimes (very fine material) up to a couple of feet deep in order to gain access to the pour point.

No radio communication was available inside the stope near the pour point of the fill line. As a result, a worker entering the stope to remove energized pipe sections was dependent on a partner in the event of an injury or emergency.

On the day of the incident, the two workers were using an arrangement in which the partner would check on the worker in the stope after 10 minutes without contact. One of the workers, wearing chest-high waders, entered the stope and began to move toward the pour point, walking through water, slimes and sand-fill. The worker’s feet became stuck and a struggle to get free was unsuccessful. Because the backfill system had not been shut down, the pipe continued to pour sand-fill around the worker, and the worker was unable to move or communicate as the backfill rose.

As per their arrangement, the worker’s partner checked and, seeing the situation, radioed the surface to shut down the pump for the sandfill and went to a refuge station to seek rescue assistance. It took seven workers an hour to extricate the worker; all received burns to their legs and one required skin grafts.

Two weeks prior the general foreman and supervisor was informed by workers of concerns relating to the backfill procedure, including the hazard of workers having to wade through water and slimes at the stope, hazards associated with the removal of lengths of pipe while sandfill was being discharged and communication problems while working in the stope. However, no changes in procedures were undertaken until after the incident.

Both the company and the supervisor, Jeffrey Huffman, pleaded guilty to contravening Section 185(7) of the Mines and Mining Plants Regulation (Regulation 854), which specifies that if any work is being done on a machine, the moving parts shall be stopped and the machine shut down and tagged. In this case, the company and Huffman failed to ensure that the sandfill pump was stopped, locked out and tagged before work was done on the sandfill pipes.

The company also pleaded guilty for failing to ensure that workers were informed of and instructed on a safe procedure for backfilling a stope and/or that following of that procedure was enforced by way of effective supervision.

FNX Mining Company was fined $80,000 for the two contraventions of the law, and Huffman was fined $8,000 by Justice of the Peace Monique Seguin.

In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

FNX Mining Company was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Mines and Mining Plants’ regulation 854, section 185 subsection (7) and possibly (8) which states,

“If any work is being done on a machine,

(a) The moving parts shall be stopped;

(b) Any hydraulic, pneumatic or gravity stored energy shall be dissipated or contained;

(c) Energy isolating devices shall be installed if the machine is not already equipped with them; and

(d) All energy isolating devices shall be properly engaged, locked and tagged.”

(8) Before doing any work to which subsection (7) applies, a worker shall verify, by testing, that the requirements of that subsection have been complied with.” (verification)

FNX Mining Company was also found guilty of a few sections of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). (Listed below)

Section 25(2)(a) states,

“An employer shall,

(a) Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.”

Section 25(1(c) states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

(c) The measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

The supervisor, Jeffrey Huffman, was found guilty of a contravention of section section 27, subsection 1(a) of the OHSA which states,

“A supervisor shall ensure that a worker,

(a) Works in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and the regulations.”

Really? Is there anything I can add to this to clarify the issue? The worker was never given the proper information to do the work. That means the employer and supervisor are both at fault and were charged accordingly. They were given information and concerns by other workers and still it fell on deaf ears. Why did they not take advantage of the situation and make safety changes. Good Question!

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

By the way, if the plant manager and supervisor were trained in Basic Certification, Part 1, they would have known all their responsibilities and made the necessary changes.

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 Awareness’ 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 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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