When the Britannia Mine started up operation in 1904, safety was not a major priority. As was the times, the focus was on getting the material out of the ground as fast as they could and more importantly, as cheaply as they could. Issues range from chance cave-ins and accidental explosions to long term health problems such as silicosis or pulmonary fibrosis. The health and safety was left to the discretion of the workers. Mining was a dangerous profession, and in many ways, still is today.
What has changed is our attitudes towards safety. It started at Britannia in 1923 when St. John Ambulance first aid courses were given. Six years later in 1929, a branch was established at Britannia. The Britannia Mining and Smelting Company trophy was first awarded in 1926, and would become a major annual event. A "safety sweepstake" was established to keep the number of injuries down. Bonuses were offered to shift bosses who achieved accident free months. Some policies worked, and some didn't, but with each new initiative, attitudes began to shift towards a safer working environment. This new mentality was adopted as the standard.
In 1958, Britannia was presented with an award of honor for achieving the greatest safety improvements of any mine in Canada. The safety of this mine was the pride of the community. For this reason, we have created a new online exhibit showcasing some of the different safety equipment used over the years, as well as archival photos that show this change in business practices. You can view the online exhibit here, Safety at Britannia.