Fourteen years ago, a mining accident forced Dave Stewart into becoming a promoter for safety and health when it comes to the mining sector. This encouraged him to present an emotion-filled talk during a public consultation conducted by the Ministry of Labour for the review of the safety and health of miners.
His father, who was a mining superintendent at a mine in Gowganda during the year 2000, nearly died of bleeding when he was accidentally hit by one of the scoops, where he was brought to Sudbury for an immediate treatment.
Because doctors had to cut his left leg just below the knee, it changed the life of the active and energetic outdoorsman.
According to Stewart, he always wonders about the life his father could have led now if not for the injury he sustained. Things would probably be so much better for the whole family.
At the time of his father’s injury, Stewart was employed as a leader for mine development at Fraser Mine in Sudbury.
Pushing For Change
In order to ensure that the same kind of incident will not happen to all his other co-workers, he decided to take matters into his own hands by becoming one of the strongest advocates for safety and health for Unifor Mine Mill Local 598.
Currently, he is the coordinator and co-chairman for health and safety at the union’s Sudbury basin.
Last Thursday, in his address in front of the mining safety review board, he could not stop his tears from flowing when he recounted the tragic story which led him there, as he pleaded for the application of changes for the prevention of workplace fatalities or injuries in the future.
Stewart said that the whole country is lagging behind and that everyone needs to step up to keep up with the standards of today. He stresses that we are not doing mining activities in the 60’s and 70’s anymore.
He adds that the industry of mining must be acknowledged as a skilled trade in order to make sure that employees undergo in-depth training that is required in order for them to be efficient and effective at doing their jobs, as safety and health must be kept as the central part of the philosophy in the workplace.
According to him, if new miners need to finish an apprenticeship of at least 6,000 hours, a small fraction of this time should be devoted to the whole internal responsibility programs.
Role of Schools
Compensation office for Unifor Mine Mill Local 598, Denis Chartrand, shares the same sentiments with Stewart, saying that safety and health education in the workplace must be highlighted beginning at an early age.
Chartrand’s advocate centres on advocating high school curriculums to integrate safety and health components in their teachings. He reiterates that students must be aware of their rights when they eventually move on to get jobs – these rights include the right to education, the right to refuse work that can be dangerous to their well-being, and the right to know.