It’s time to sign Convention 176

Workplace tragedies are not uncommon in mines around
the world. In Canada, the Westray mining disaster is still alive in the minds
of many Canadians, who in 1992 saw workers in the Westray mine die in a methane
gas explosion. The explosion was due largely to employer carelessness, a lack
of training for workers and woefully inadequate safety standards.

Such events do not stop at our borders and the world
has since seen similar disasters. In 2010, for example, 18 years after the
Westray miners lost their lives, a methane explosion killed 29 miners in New
Canadian safety standards were improved following the Westray tragedy, there
are still numerous deaths occurring in workplaces across the country every
single year.

Despite improvements, with disasters like Westray
still colouring the landscape of Canadian mining, one would hope that the
Canadian government would take every possible precaution to prevent future
tragedies. One would expect the government to concur with the many other
countries, including the U.S., which have ratified ILO Convention No. 176.

The Safety and
Health in Mines Convention, 1995
(No. 176) was designed by the
international community to protect workers in the mining industry who face
extraordinary dangers by virtue of their occupations. The Convention
specifically recognizes that:


…workers have a need
for, and a right to, information, training and genuine consultation on and
participation in the preparation and implementation of safety and health
measures concerning the hazards and risks they face in the mining industry…

Of course, this is true. Workers deserve a chance to
be involved in their own safety. The fact that Canada has not formally
recognized this by ratifying the Convention is deeply troubling. As our history
has proven, and as the 2010 New Zealand explosion has shown, safety in mines is
far from a distant concern. On the contrary, it is an ever-present concern that
threatens the lives of workers every day they go to work. That’s the nature of
the industry – it’s hard and honourable and rife with dangers.

The workers who fill the positions in the mines
accept the natural dangers of the industry. But they shouldn’t have to accept
more danger than is absolutely necessary. This is where Convention 176 comes
into play. It is the duty of our government to provide as much safety as
possible for the workers that keep one of this country’s core industry’s going
strong.  That Convention 176 has yet to
be signed and ratified fails miners both in Canada and abroad, fails their families and
loved ones and fails the country as a whole. Canada needs to join the U.S. and
other nations in protecting its most valuable resource: its workers.

The see
the full text of the Convention click

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