April 18th, 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the wildcat strike organized by the United Steelworkers Union (“USW”) in Elliott Lake, Ontario in response to the dangerous working conditions in the region’s uranium mines. This historic and symbolic event occurred after hundreds of workers contracted cancer while exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their workplace. Remarkably, these miners initially had their health claims denied by the Compensation Board at the time of the tragedy.
Soon after this event, the leadership of the USW together with the Ontario Government established the Ham Royal Commission to further investigate and develop recommendations on how to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. A notable consequence of this was the enactment of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1980. This landmark legislation provided mandatory worker health and safety committees, the right of employees to refuse to perform unsafe work, and the right for employees to be provided with full information on all workplace health and safety hazards.
Another significant outcome was the establishment of the Canadian Institute for Radiation Safety – an independent, national organization dedicated to promoting and advancing radiation safety in the workplace, in the environment and in the community.
“Today the Canadian Institute for Radiation Safety is known as the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada (“RSIC”) and it has an expanded scope that includes a growing Personal Alpha Dosimeter (“PAD”) service to monitor radiation exposure for a number of professionals working in a variety of fields,” said Steve Mahoney, President of RSIC. The institute’s PAD service clientele includes 1500 miners located across Canada and abroad. This service is licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and has been made mandatory for all uranium miners in Canada.
“RSIC congratulates the USW for their leadership in the 1970s to force action. In addition, RSIC applauds the USW for their continued dedication to worker safety in uranium mines across Canada and for their continued support of our institute as we continue to raise awareness and perform services that help keep miners and other professionals safe. ” added Mahoney.
Hon. Steve Mahoney, P.C.
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