No lost time in 2013 means major award for Wolverine

Trent Ernst, Editor


Fourteen months without a single lost time injury has garnered Wolverine Mine the John Ash Safety Award by the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines. The award is given for working more than one million employee hours while maintaining the lowest lost time injury frequency among mines in their category.

The Wolverine Mine completed the 2013 award year with no lost time injuries. In total, the 440 workers at the Wolverine Mine did not have a lost time accident since December 2012 until March 2014, a total of 14 months.

“It’s a lot of work,” says Clint Desrosiers, Health and Safety Director for Canadian Operations for Walter Energy. “It’s a cooperation between our union representatives and our management. We’ve created a hybrid team and are working collaboratively to create an integrated health and safety management system. The system is focused on identifying hazards and the risks associated with them and controlling them or eliminating them completely.”

At the most basic level, says Desrosiers, employees are trained to recognize hazards that will impact job performance. “For example, a worker comes to get on the crew bus from the dry. The ground has warmed and thawed and then iced up. Our workers will recognize this and instead of trying to shuffle out to the bus and change their individual behavior, they will sand the walk before anyone goes out to the bus.”

Desrosiers says that the methodology used at the mine was developed locally: “It was developed within Canadian operations, cooperatively with joint occupational health and safety committee. Risk management is an industry standard, but different organizations take it to different levels. We’ve looked at best practices, and tailored a program specifically for Walter Energy.”

But, Desrosiers says, it is a team effort. “It wouldn’t be done if it hadn’t been driven by the workforce,” he says.

Dan Cartwright, President of Walter Energy’s Canadian Operations, agrees. “Our success at Wolverine is attributable to the Health and Safety programs we have developed cooperatively with our hourly employees,” said Cartwright. “The mine has an active Joint Occupational, Health, Safety and Environment Committee. Our system empowers the workforce to participate in a safety program that eliminates unsafe conditions and practices.”

The Mine Safety Awards were established in 1961 by the BC Minister of Mines to recognize annually the safety record of mines in the province. The Mine Safety Awards program consists of two competitions resulting in seven different awards. All producing mines in BC that have accumulated the required number of employee hours and have no fatalities in the competition year are eligible. Contractor hours also are included in employee hours. Award winners have the lowest lost-time accident frequency of mines in their category.

Teck Coal’s Elkford operation was also awarded the John Ash safety award.

Recipients of the 52nd Annual Mine Safety Awards were celebrated on March 17 at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria.