U of S looks at health of mine workers

U of S looks at health of mine workers

ANDREA HILL, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX

Published on: April 22, 2017 | Last Updated: April 22, 2017 7:00 AM CST

 McArthur River

Cameco Corp.’s McArthur River uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan is pictured in this undated handout photo. CAMECO CORPORATION / SASKATOON

Saskatoon researchers are looking at how the health of people working in Saskatchewan’s mining industry stacks up against other workers.

Lorna Butler, a University of Saskatchewan nursing professor, said she became interested in the subject after the Conference Board of Canada published a report in 2013 that showed work lost because of illness cost the Canadian economy an estimated $16.6 billion in 2012.

Saskatchewan fared worse than the country as a whole, with an average absenteeism rate of 11 days per full-time employee in 2011 compared to the national rate of nine days.

“We asked the question: What does that look like in the mining industry? And interestingly, they didn’t know,” Butler said.

While mining industries pay a lot of attention to health as it refers to injury prevention on the job and other occupational health and safety matters, they spend less time thinking about the overall health of workers, Butler said. However, it’s probably something they should consider; if workers living at isolated mining camps have poor health, they could lose work days due to illness, which would hurt the companies that need their productivity.

“Some companies invest a lot in trying to make sure that they have a good environment for their workers, but how do we get it right? Do we know what the workers really want? Do we know what the issues really are? It may be as simple as someone who’s really homesick, who’s never been away, and so they’re ill based on just the isolation. We don’t know those kinds of things, so we don’t know the impact,” Butler said.

“The mines probably have a lot of rich data that they don’t even realize that they have because they haven’t looked at it that way.”

Researchers will spend the year looking at data provided by Cameco, the Mosaic Company, PotashCorp and K+S Potash Canada to figure out what the absenteeism rate is for people in the mining industry and how it compares to the rest of the country. They will also look at what health promotion programs are in place at various mine sites to see which ones, if any, appear to be contributing to better worker health.

“We want to be able to share within a mine and across mines and across types of mines — is uranium different than potash or are health issues health issues, not mine specific?” Butler said.

 

 

 

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on April 24, 2017, in miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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