By James Neeley
Leadership, dealing with stress, and building a culture of safety were the topics that attracted 300 industry people to the 2009 Mining Health and Safety conference.
"The conference has been growing over the past few years," said Susan Haldane, communications supervisor for Mining and Aggregate Safety and Health Association (MASHA) and coordinator of the conference.
In 2000, the event attracted 250 to 270 visitors, and in 2008 the number jumped to 381. The 2009 number was down a little with about 300 people taking in the three day event, Haldane said.
"Given the state of our economy and the mining industry in particular, we are very pleased with the turnout," she said.
"It's a good indication of the commitment mining companies have to safety."
The yearly Mining Health and Safety conference was held in Sudbury -- for the 11th consecutive year from April 14 to 16.
This year's event got a high voltage visit from the former Toronto Argonauts spark plug player, and current chief executive officer (CEO) of the team Michael "Pinball" Clemons.
"The conference is a venue for both leadership and health and safety," Haldane said, explaining they wanted to bring in someone from outside mining to share their knowledge of leadership.
"Putting your personal values into your role as a leader that was his message," she said.
But safety is about much more than avoiding injury, Haldane said.
That's why MASHA asked Cementation Canada president Roy Slack to give his "Challenges and Successes in Establishing a Safety Culture," she said.
The program was a review of safety culture from the perspective of a contractor, Slack said.
"The paper is written to (Cementation) employees, but I put client alerts in: some different opportunities clients may have to help contractors with their safety," he said, adding "we all work together."
Building a culture of safety in the contracting community, Slack said, "although we have some specific challenges there's lots of general similarities to building culture" whether it's a manufacturer, mining contractor or IT company.
The other topic of discussion on day two was one we can all relate to: stress. MASHA brought oncologist and University of Toronto Medical Department professor Dr. Robert Buckman to deliver his presentation "Stress is a communicable disease ... but you don't have to catch it."
"We thought that was a very timely topic, the affect stress can have," Haldane said, explaining the feedback from conference-goers was excellent.
The final day of the conference covered mining safety issues ranging from vibration exposure via the feet to conveyor guarding, emergency response challenges in a large hydro facility to safe backfilling practices.
Another important role of the conference, Haldane said, "is to provide a venue where people can come from across the industry and network: exchange ideas, talk about innovations at their operations and good practices."
The Ontario mining industry is working towards a zero harm goal -- eliminating injuries and illnesses from the workplace, Haldane explained.
"We try to give people some tools and motivation to continue to drive towards that vision, change cultures and attitudes to achieve the zero harm goal.