High number of 'close calls' at Highland Valley Copper cause for concern, union says

The union that represents employees at the Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake is concerned about the number of serious incidents that have occurred in recent months.

"We've seen a dozer tip over. We've seen tires explode. We've seen couplers explode. We've seen blasts that have gone awry," said Kyle Wolff, president of United Steelworkers Local 7619.

Wolff says right now there are five people who have suffered back injuries on the job, whose accidents are not being investigated by the company.

"They're not even investigating when a person goes to medical aid or goes to the hospital," he said.

Highland Valley spokesperson Jacquie Schneider says that workplace incidents are not higher than normal and that the number of incidents they're investigating is the same as always.

Schneider also says any recent safety incidents are currently being investigated.

"We take all incidents involving our employees safety very seriously," she said. "We do have a long track record and strong safety performance."

But Wolff told CBC he gets calls every day that lead him to believe there's a lack of consideration when it comes to safety.

"Over the last two years, it's been more about production and less about safety," he said.

"We're finding these trends where the equipment is being found almost inoperable before we take if off the field," he added.

Wolff says one particular incident where steering rods were bent and still being used in the field was a major concern for the union.

"You don't drive equipment with bent steering issues."

"It's going to lead to a fatality." 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops