The Yukon is known for its rich mining history. Exploration and mining continue to be a cornerstone of not only our economy here in the territory, but our sense of identity and place.
The industries are heating up. In 2018, exploration was estimated to have increased over 10 per cent to over $186 million, the highest it’s been since 2012. The Eagle mine north of Mayo poured its first gold last September. In October, the Minto mine returned to production after a year hiatus and change of ownership. The Coffee Gold Project near Dawson City is targeting a late 2021 production. When both the Eagle and Coffee gold projects are in production, the value of mineral production is expected to climb from an estimated $200 million in 2018 to about $900 million by 2023.
With the growth of any industry comes the responsibility of focusing on safety culture. Of course, society’s awareness around safety risks and best practices has expanded since those famous gold rush years over a century ago. Still, hazards in these industries are unique — as are the challenges of working in the Yukon. Workers, especially in exploration, face the reality of staying safe in some of the most remote areas of the world.
For the Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board (YWCHSB), our philosophy is simple: every single worker deserves to come home at the end of the day in the same condition they went to work.
As well as providing compensation, service, and support to workers injured on the job, our role at YWCHSB is to promote workplace safety through youth-based learning, training, inspections, compliance, and investigations. We’re dedicated to moving towards our goal of target zero. That means zero broken bodies, minds, homes, and communities as result of workplace incidents. It may seem like a lofty goal, but from our perspective, how can we accept anything else?
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) branch — responsible for much of the prevention side of the equation — is integral to the success of this goal. OHS’ role is to promote and enforce health and safety in the workplace. Alongside collaborating with Yukon communities and national organizations, officers visit workplaces throughout the Yukon to help employers comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. The branch also launches investigations into specific workplace situations that warrant a deeper level of analysis than an inspection.
The OHS branch is available to meet with any new company setting up in the Yukon. The branch encourages collaborating with safety officers to go over mandatory first steps and timelines, like filing notice of projects, obtaining blaster’s permits and First Line Supervisor’s Certificates, and complying with mine rescue standards.
These steps are fundamental in setting up a safety culture from day one. A First Line Supervisor’s Certificate, for example — mandatory for supervisors at any mining or exploration project with more than 12 employees — shows that a supervisor understands the health and safety legislations and can act as a leader in the workplace when it comes to safe work practices.
In an ongoing effort to make it easier for employers to access safety training, the OHS branch also collaborates with the Yukon College to offer a four-day crane operator course. The course is an intensive introduction to heavy lifting and proper safe procedures for crane operations. It’s supplemented with the 7 Steps to Electrical Safety Training Program, which teaches participants how to identify and avoid power line hazards on the worksite.
The OHS branch has an open door policy. The branch encourages any company to contact them to set up a meeting. It’s all about our shared commitment to health and safety so at the end of the day, everyone comes home in the same condition they went to work in.