The first day of the mines safety review committee in Sudbury held Wednesday wrapped up with a suggestion from the United Steelworkers that the hearings hadn’t been publicized well enough.

The province is holding review sessions in mining communities across Ontario to look at the health and safety of workers in the mining sector.

In Sudbury, the first day of the talks heard mostly from organized labour representatives.  Much of the discussions focused on the internal responsibility system — also called the "IRS".

The system is supposed to hold everyone accountable — right up to the president — to report health and safety violations and to problem-solve to make workplaces safer.

Myles Sullivan

Myles Sullivan is a representative with the United Steelworkers in Sudbury. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

However, a Steelworkers representative told the hearing the system breaks down when there’s a disagreement over whether something is safe or not.

Myles Sullivan said workers may also be nervous about reporting a safety issue for fear of reprisal, and added the system didn’t work in the deaths of two men in a run of muck at Vale’s Frood-Stobie mine in 2011.

“Absolutely, there was a failure of the IRS there unfortunately,” he said.

“That’s why it’s so important for workers to be trained on it [and] for supervisors to be trained on it, believe in it, use it and make it work.”

The chair of the committee, George Gritziotis, said the IRS is the common thread through many of the issues that his committee is working on. He added he doesn’t want to associate its breakdown with any particular incident.

“IRS is about how you know … supervisors, workers and co-workers are all ensuring that their health and welfare and safety in the workplace is taken care of,” he said.

‘Weren’t aware of it’

Meanwhile, beyond talks of safety, Sullivan said he felt the hearings weren’t publicized well enough. He also said he knows of some people who were turned away.

“There may be a lot of people, especially in Kirkland Lake and Timmins that didn’t have a chance to come out to voice their concerns and ideas and thoughts because they weren’t aware of it,” he said.

Sullivan acknowledged he thought the first day of hearings in Sudbury went well, but said he would have liked to have seen some mine managers in addition to labour officials.

George Gritziotis

George Gritziotis is the chair of the mines safety review committee. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Gritziotis said he was puzzled by Sullivan’s comment that some people were turned away, adding if it was a communications gap, it would be looked into.

Gritziotis said anyone is welcome to speak, and submissions can be accepted over the phone or informally over a cup of coffee if the person doesn't want to speak publicly.

The second hearing takes place in Sudbury on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the downtown library branch.