Westray Disaster Will be Repeated
if Inquiry Lessons Are Not Acted On

Westray Disaster Will be Repeated
if Inquiry Lessons Are Not Acted On

Says Steelworkers National Director

United Steelworkers of America

2 December 1997

This item was found on the Internet, at

TORONTO — The report of the Westray Inquiry should signal the need to prevent any deregulation and to improve enforcement of better regulations in Canada's mining industry, says Lawrence McBrearty, national director of the United Steelworkers.

"Every aspect of this completely-preventable disaster has been documented by the inquiry," McBrearty said. "Evidence presented by the union, the survivors and the families of those who died in the explosion contributed to the report, which condemns individuals, the company and the government for deliberately putting workers' lives at risk for the sake of profit.

"But the report will amount to nothing if its lessons are not learned," he said. "Already, deregulation of the mining industry is contemplated or underway in other Canadian provinces such as Ontario."

McBrearty said the Steelworkers, which is Canada's largest mining union, will continue its pressure on governments to prevent any repeat of the what Justice Peter Richard said was clearly not an accident. That pressure will include approaching premiers and responsible ministers, as well as Prime Minister Jean Chretien, to deal with the issue of corporate responsibility and liability.

"No one can hide from the facts," McBrearty said, referring to the fact that the mine's owner, Clifford Frame, and mine supervisor Marvin Pelley both refused to appear at the inquiry. "Canadians, whether they are connected to the mining industry or not, should not view Westray as an isolated or un-connected event. It is part and parcel of our blind faith in corporations to make the right decisions on behalf of workers. The truth is they cannot be trusted. Regulation and enforcement are absolutely imperative to protecting workers' lives."

In its submission to the inquiry, the Steelworkers joined with the Westray Families Group and three other organizations to recommend that regulators approving mine proposals and issuing permits must explicitly deal with occupational health and safety concerns in the approval process. As well, the union made a number of proposals for improvements to operational regulations for coal mining, the basis on which permits are issued and the duties to be carried out by inspectors.

The seven recommendations called for: The Steelworkers' Union was in the middle of a campaign to unionize the Westray miners when the 1992 explosion occurred. The union has continued to represent the surviving miners in the quest to have the public inquiry.

McBrearty said Monday's release of the inquiry's report upholds the Steelworkers' position that the disaster would not have happened if the mine had acted prudently and followed safe mining practices, and if public officials responsible for regulating the mine had enforced the statutes within their authority.

Go To:   Westray Scrapbook Fifty clippings about the Westray coal mine disaster
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