In the wake of two separate accidents involving heavy equipment operators that happened in 2014, last week Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd. was hit with a total fine of $365,000 last week. In the incidents, one worker was seriously injured and another was killed.
The first accident happened on February 22, 2014, as a heavy equipment operator was in the process of loading mining trucks with an excavator and the working face of the stockpile failed, sending a large amount of material onto the excavator, crushing the operator’s cab and trapping the worker inside. The material also crushed the radio, so the worker was unable to call for assistance or shut down the motor while he was trapped inside. It wasn’t until another equipment operator discovered the trapped worker that mine rescue personnel were able to get to and extricate him about two hours after the incident. The worker suffered hand and leg injuries.
The second incident occurred on July 10, 2014, as a miner was operating a scoop tram, which is similar to a front-end loader that works underground to haul ore, when he was crushed by a load of muck or rock. His body was found at the bottom of an inclined excavation, just before what is called the ‘safe-limit line,’ which designates a hazard zone to workers. It is still unknown why the worker was beyond the line or why he was outside of the loader’s cab with a raised bucket full of rock and its engine still running.
After a thorough investigation, the Ontario Ministry of Labour issued a number of orders to Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd., including one to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and used before, during and after removal of material, an order the company complied with by developing a written policy that no worker outside a loader would be permitted ahead of the safe-limit line without permission from a supervisor. They were found guilty of failing to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and followed to prevent a worker from being outside of a loader while ahead of the safe-limit line, which brought a fine of $300,000, and for failing to ensure that a stockpile of unconsolidated material was made safe before a worker was allowed to work close to or on top of the stockpile, which brought an additional $65,000.
In addition to those fines, which were imposed by Senior Justice of the Peace Raymond Zuliani in Thunder Bay court on January 18, 2016, a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was also added, meaning the total cost to the company was $456,250. Yet more proof that safety doesn’t cost a company nearly as much as the alternative.