Sharing Best Practices in Mining Safety


Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

In the world of environmental, health and safety, sharing information can have an amazing ripple effect across an industry. It gives companies the ability to learn from the experiences of other companies. In some cases, this can be the difference between life and death for workers, or it can prevent devastating environmental incidents. Overall, we are stronger when we work together towards EHS excellence.

More Collaboration Desired in Ontario Mining Sector

The mining sector is an example of an industry that stands to realize significant benefits if further information-sharing initiatives are implemented. However, sharing information can appear counter-intuitive for companies struggling to do business in a competitive market.

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams

Earlier this month, the results of a provincial mining safety review were released in Ontario, Canada.The final report seems to touch briefly on some information-sharing initiatives, such as the maintenance of a mining exposure database to track and monitor potential cancer causing toxins. But it appears that several in the industry think that there’s much more that can – and should – be done in this area.

Frank Demers, a mine manager employed by Vale, took part in the mine safety review process. In speaking with CBC News he described safety standards and procedures as inconsistent across companies. “We’ve gotten much better at sharing over the past three or four years, but prior to that we liked to hold our cards close to our chests,” said Demers.

Also weighing in on the issue of industry collaboration was George Gritziotis, Chief Prevention Officer at the Ontario Ministry of Labour: “Health and safety is a continuous journey of improvement, and we must always monitor emerging health and safety issues and continue to move towards a culture of all parties working together to find sustainable solutions.”

As the top location for mining investment and production in Canada,Ontario’s mining industry employs approximately 27,000 people, with another 50,000 jobs in supply chains and support activities. That’s a lot of people who could be learning from each other’s experiences!

Tammy Eger, Director of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health at Laurentian University, has suggested a next step for information-sharing in the Ontario mine industry. She’d like to see the Centre become a repository of safety information for mining companies to consult, and to ensure that any academic studies are translated into the kind of practical language that could be made useful within the industry.

The Aviation Industry is Leading the Way

The aviation industry leads the way when it comes to information-sharing.

We’ve seen the power of sharing information and best practices in other industries, notably the aviation industry. Rather than relying on accident investigations to guide safety improvements, voluntary reporting programs have resulted in safety issues being resolved before they result in an accident, through corrective action rather than discipline.

The Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system is an excellent example. Created by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, ASIAS now has 44 members and uses aggregate, protected data from industry and government voluntary reporting programs to proactively find safety issues, identify safety enhancements and measure the effectiveness of solutions.

The Power of Information-Sharing

At Intelex, we are firm believers in the positive impact that information-sharing can have on environmental, health and safety performance. Our Intelex-Exchange online user community is proof of this: a collaborative platform that is both social and educational, Intelex-Exchange connects Intelex users in similar industries, roles or locations and facilitates the sharing of best practices. We’ve also seen the power of information-sharing at our annual user conference, where EHS professionals have the opportunity to network and learn from one another.

Information-sharing may not always come naturally, and this can be particularly true in highly competitive industries.

But with so much to gain, why not start the conversation?

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