Excerpts from the Government of Ontario’s Newsroom

Sherritt International Corporation, a natural resource company operating as Canada Talc, pleaded guilty and was fined $285,000 today for a violation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after a young worker was killed.

On August 20, 2008, a young worker at the Canada Talc mine in Madoc was killed by a flood of broken rock, sediment and water, called muck. The worker had been operating equipment to fill bins with muck flowing down from other areas of the mine. The bins were then sent up to the surface of the mine to be emptied. During the night, another worker on the surface of the mine heard unusual sounds coming from the muck-loading area. A camera in the mine shaft revealed an overflow of muck. When the young worker could not be contacted by telephone, a third worker went to investigate. That worker, upon arrival, saw an overflow of muck going down past the young worker’s control station. The young worker had been asphyxiated.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the young worker’s control station was located directly in front of the tunnel from which muck was flowing, putting the worker in danger during a run of muck. Water had also been added to the muck to make it flow faster. Additionally, the worker had not yet completed training specific to his task, he was working alone, and the mine’s written procedures did not adequately address how to control a run of muck.

Sherritt International Corporation, operating as Canada Talc, pleaded guilty to failing to take the reasonable precaution of developing and implementing safety procedures and devices to protect the worker from a run of muck.

The fine was imposed on January 19, 2010 by Justice of the Peace Jack Chiang. 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

Section 25, subsection 2(h) is written as one of those regulations that are a blanket for many various situations.

“The employer shall, (h) take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.”

In this case, Canadian Talc did not have written procedures to cover the accident as it happened. The worker’s control station was located directly in front of the tunnel. What was that all about! The MOL also noted that Canada Talc did not develop and implement safety procedures and devices to protect workers in this type of situation.

The ACT is the law and section 25 of the ACT covers the responsibilities of employers.

In this case, Canada Talc was lead to complacency believing that since this type of accident has never happened before, ( that we know of) that it would not happen and they didn’t see any reason for preventative measures. I will be very surprised if it is learned the JHSC hadn’t already identified the ‘potential’ for a serious accident and made recommendations for corrective action.

I am curious about the Coroner’s Report. Remember, in Ontario, the ‘Mining’ as well as the ‘Construction’ sectors make a Coroner’s Inquest mandatory in the event of a death.

If your math skills are lacking, the 25% surcharge comes out to $71,250 for a grand total of $356,250 in fines.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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