The new Elk Valley Safety Association

The new association in the Elk Valley was created to deal with common issues in the mining sector


A new association is being formed in B.C.'s Elk Valley to promote health, safety and training in the mining sector. The new Elk Valley Safety Association, headed by Catherine Reed, is comprised of contractors and companies across the Elk Valley that work with mining giant Teck Coal, which runs five coal-mining operations in the region.

Reed, who is the safety co-ordinator at Finning Canada in Sparwood, has held that position for about five years. She is excited about the future of the association, which right now is in its initial stages.

A smart idea

"It all started last summer when the safety manager at SMS (Equipment) and I happened to be on site at Teck Coal," said Reed. "We started talking and realized we have a lot of common issues and thought that maybe other contractors had the same issues."

So at a Teck Coal town hall meeting last September, Reed and SMS brought up their issues—mainly regarding safety and training—and they had an overwhelming show of hands to support the idea of having discussions and conversations about what is going on in the mining industry in the  Elk Valley.

Making training viable

One of the biggest issues, Reed said, is understanding the training needs, especially for the smaller companies in the Elk Valley like Mountain Mechanical and Black Horse Electrical.

"Finning is great, as we have our own internal training department we can rely on," said Reed. "But for the small companies and the few-man operations, it's not cost effective to get a trainer in to train just one or two people. So getting training resources to these smaller companies is hugely important."

Informative meetings

The Elk Valley Safety Association has held one official meeting to date and will be conducting its second one on February 26, 2013. The first meeting, held November 14, featured a drug and alcohol presentation by ECS Safety Services. The presentation was an information/education session that included a quick overview of drug and alcohol testing procedures and how to comply. There was an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers after the presentation.

Teck Coal just announced changes to its drug and alcohol policy. The company has implemented random drug testing at all Teck Coal sites in the Elk Valley for anybody working at the mine sites or anyone in safety-sensitive positions. This is just one of many issues that the association brings to the forefront and gives people the opportunity to learn about and discuss.

Utilizing expertise

The association is also promoting training in regards to safety and small equipment training as well.

"Locally, we've been working with College of the Rockies (COTR)," said Reed. "Teck and COTR have a great relationship. The college has just brought in a fall protection class and they are very willing to work with us to see what we need to bring to the Elk Valley. The B.C. Federation Safety Centre has a lot of courses available too, and we've had them come in to talk about accident investigation and safety committee training and understanding legislation. We hope to have a lot more courses in the future."

Most meetings for the Elk Valley Safety Association take place at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Sparwood. Communication and training are the main goals of the association right now and as of January 2013 it has about 50 members.

Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen, a writer for Kootenay Business Magazine, has a degree in jounalism. She enjoys finding and reporting the news from the business community. View all of Karen Kornelsen’s articles

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