Mine safety boss headed south

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 18/96) - His is a position many would describe as thankless.

If a decision is made one way, employers raise concerns. If it is made another way, workers will add their two cents.

But that has been the day-to-day working environment of the last four-and-a-half years for Dave Turner, the NWT's chief mine inspector, who is returning south at month's end.

"I like to say I came down on the side of safety," he said, sitting among boxes and papers that have yet to be packed.

But working for an employer intent on suing him, Turner said it was time to look elsewhere for work.

"Obviously it did play a part," he said of a Workers' Compensation Board's legal suit that names Turner and a list of others as being at least in part responsible for the blast at Giant mine that killed nine workers.

"It's hard to work for somebody who's suing you."

But uncomfortable situations have been a part of the job for Turner. He took over the job as NWT chief mine inspector in July 1992, in the middle of the strike at Giant.

Then he took on the task of helping develop and put in place a new mining act and regulations. Those developments were also at times full of heated debate, lack of co-operation and bad blood.

Despite the obstacles, the work was completed.

"I think we've introduced some of the best regulations in the country, although some people will disagree with that," Turner said.

So with that behind him and having watched the NWT's mine accident rate fall from near the highest in the country to just about the national average, he looks fondly back on his time in the NWT.

"I did the job I came up to do," he said. "I helped introduce new legislation and got people working together.

"Now I'm ready for a new challenge."

Turner is moving to B.C., where he will become the manager of engineering at a coal mine in Campbell River.