A decade ago, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) collaborated with the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) to conduct its first nationwide survey of safety in the Canadian mineral exploration industry (report available at explorationsurvey.ca). At the time, building a culture of safety in the mineral exploration sector was challenging. As Ian Paterson, chair of the AME BC Health and Safety Committee, said in 2005: “Safety awareness is not considered a very macho attribute in this macho industry, an attitude that needs to change.” In fact, only 49 per cent of respondents admitted to having a safety program in the inaugural survey, in contrast to 93 per cent in the 2013 survey.

Although attitudes toward safety have shifted, the need for a safety survey has not changed. The safety survey keeps track of trends in the industry to prepare health- and safety-related workshops and short courses and to provide guidance for members of the two industry associations. Highlights of the 2013 survey include the following.

What our industry is doing well:

  • Eighty-nine per cent of respondents always have an emergency response plan for each site.
  • Ninety per cent of respondents conduct health and safety simulation exercises.

What needs to be improved:

  • Health and safety is a standing agenda item at just 62 per cent of respondents’ board of directors meetings.
  • Only 146 organizations active in mineral exploration reported on their safety practices in 2013.

AME BC and the PDAC also collect information on fatalities in the industry and share this information with the goal of preventing any further fatalities. There have been 94 fatalities in mineral exploration since 1980, of which 43 have involved aircraft – primarily helicopters. As fatalities correspond with peaks of activity in the industry, AME BC and the PDAC hope that industry can learn from this trend to prevent any further fatalities in Canada’s dynamic mineral exploration industry. Another purpose of the survey and resulting annual report is to recognize companies with exemplary safety records. In 2014, AME BC and the PDAC presented the Safe Day Everyday Award to 65 companies for achieving a lost-time-free record in 2013, and presented the Safe Day Everyday Gold Award to Geotech Drilling Services Ltd. for achieving 308,848 hours without an incident resulting in lost time.

Exploration companies, service providers and geological surveys are all encouraged to fill out the 2014 survey by June 30, 2015, online at explorationsurvey.ca.

Safety on the agenda

Take time out for safety – include a safety-related message as an agenda item at every meeting.

Safety Reminder: Never ride without a helmet, one person to a vehicle, and drive according to road conditions | Illustration by Heather Brown