During the Review, a number of issues were identified that did not "fit" the scope of this report but still require attention. The Chief Prevention Officer will seek direction from the Minister with respect to addressing the following.
- Study whether the positions, roles and responsibilities stipulated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act meet the current needs of Ontario workplaces
In their work, the Advisory Group and Working Groups identified a number of issues that could affect all workers in Ontario, and require input from a broader range of workplaces. In particular, the Review noted that the basic elements of worker and employer rights and responsibilities in the Occupational Health and Safety Act have remained unchanged since the Act was created --even though work environments have changed dramatically over the past few decades.
One of the key issues is whether the positions, roles and responsibilities under the Act meet the current needs of Ontario workplaces. For example, when Ham (1976) first set out the concept of the Internal Responsibility System, he envisioned one worker representative for every 25 workers working one shift a month in that role. Both Burkett (1981) and Laughren (1988) felt the worker representative role should be a full-time position, although they differed on the ratio of worker representatives to workers (1:500 vs 1:250). The IRS Working Group acknowledged the critical role of the worker representative and agreed that full-time representatives would be able to contribute more effectively to the IRS than part-time ones.
The nature of work and the structure of workplaces have changed significantly in the time since the OHSA was created. Jurisdictions around the world have created models of worker and employer rights and responsibilities that are different from the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
- Study the health and safety system in surface plants and surface mining
The Advisory Group recommended that the Ministry of Labour, in collaboration with the relevant system partners and the workplace parties, review health and safety – including emergency preparedness -- in surface plants and surface mining. While many of the hazards in underground mines also occur in surface operations, surface mining has its own unique hazards that should be carefully assessed.
- Continue to work with subject matter experts to explore priority hazards
During the course of the Review, subject matter experts helped focus attention on specific elements of the priority hazards. By using subject matter experts, the Ministry of Labour was able to take advantage of the extensive expertise that exists in the system partners, academia, other ministries and the workplaces themselves. Given the duration of the Review, only segments of the priority hazards could be studied. The work should continue, looking at the other issues related to the priority hazards.
The short (half day) focused sessions with subject matter experts was valuable for the ministry as well as for the experts themselves, who were able to share knowledge with one another. Ongoing meetings with experts should not duplicate the work done by the working groups of the Mining Legislative Review Committee or the Technical Advisory Committees of Workplace Safety North; instead, they should focus on identifying strategies to mitigate specific elements of the high hazards.
- Preserve the database on occupational illness beyond the life of the current project led by the Ontario Cancer Research Centre
In the past, there were several programs that required mandatory collection of health records related to exposures to various agents. However, when these programs ended, their records – which are all in paper form -- were stored in various locations across the province and are difficult to use and easily lost. To ensure the mining sector continues to have access to valuable data, the Ministry of Labour should identify the location of these records and develop a plan to ensure they are preserved and, more importantly, digitized so they can be accessed by researchers.
- Improve the way research relevant to occupational health and safety in the mining sector is compiled, shared and made available
The Review heard from various sources, including the research community, that research is being done and/or new techniques to reduce injury and illness are being tested but the information is not being shared. When findings that show better ways to improve health and safety are not shared, they can’t make a difference. When the workplace parties and subject matter experts share ideas, then positive changes can be made.
- Evaluate the impact of alcohol and drugs use in workplace incidents
Burkett studied the relationship between alcohol and drug use and workplace accidents in 1981. His report concluded that, while there was likely no evidence that alcohol and drug use was more or less prevalent in underground mining than in any other industry, both posed a significant safety issue.
Since 1981, mining workplaces have become more technologically advanced and more miners are working alone. The attitude to the use of alcohol and some drugs has also changed markedly. All the priority hazards identified by the Review would be exacerbated by even slight impairment due to alcohol or drugs.
As a starting point, past serious occurrences could be examined to determine what, if any, part alcohol and/or drug use played in the incident.
- Study the way in which an accreditation program may benefit the mining sector
The Review heard from a variety of stakeholders that good performance should be recognized by the health and safety system. A formal recognition would potentially provide others to meet the same level of achievement. The underground mining sector was interested in how an accreditation program could be beneficial to organizations within the sector.