Early progress in improving health and safety
The Ministry did not wait until the end of the Review to start acting on its advice. As promised by the government at the outset of the review, quick steps were taken to address some issues identified early in the process (see Progress Report).
High Visibility Safety Apparel
In September 2014, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development developed a best practice guideline to help stakeholders comply with the current requirements regarding high visibility safety apparel. The Ministry also consulted on proposed regulatory amendments that apply to the mining sector, which align with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) ongoing review of its standard for high visibility apparel. The Review has already discussed these proposed amendments with the Mining Legislative Review Committee.
Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification Part II
To support the upcoming implementation of the 2014 Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) Certification Training Program and Provider Standards, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development sought advice on potential hazard modules from the Review’s Hazards Working Group and others in the mining sector. The risk assessment conducted as part of the Review was used to inform the program’s list of hazards and the ministry used focus group discussions, teleconferences and email surveys to obtain stakeholder feedback on the implementation framework to formalize Part Two of the 2014 JHSC program standard. A report back on the feedback and recommendations on the 2014 JHSC implementation framework will be shared with the Chief Prevention Officer by the end of March 2015.
New Mining Research Projects
Work has already started on two research initiatives.
- The Ontario Cancer Research Centre’s creation of the Ontario Mining Exposure Database. Started in the summer of 2014, the database will help identify groups of workers who may have been exposed to a carcinogen in the workplace in the past and may now be at higher risk of developing occupational disease. The project has completed its early milestones of collecting data and developing the database and is now in the process of entering the paper records into the electronic database. As valuable as this database will be, it won’t provide information on current levels of exposure in the Ontario mining sector or the occupational disease risks facing workers in the industry today.
- The Centre for Research in Occupational Health and Safety project to evaluate personal protective equipment as a control strategy to reduce foot-transmitted vibration. In the mining industry, operators of locomotives, jumbo drills, bolters and raise platforms as well as workers who drill and bolt off of scissor platforms are regularly exposed to foot-transmitted vibration. This exposure can cause blanching of the toes, and tingling and numbness in the feet and toes. It can disrupt blood circulation and cause innervation to the toes and feet, leading to permanent damage and vibration induced white-feet. Research has shown that "anti-vibration" gloves can reduce the impact of hand-arm vibration but, to date, there have been no controlled studies examining the effectiveness of personal protective equipment, such as mats, boots and/or insoles, in reducing the impact of foot-transmitted vibration. With this study, researchers have been conducting tests to determine the best combinations of mats, boots and insoles. Preliminary results are promising. At 3Hz and 40Hz the best combination of personal protective equipment reduced the transmission of vibration from the platform through the foot by over 50%. Researchers also learned that the best mat, boot and insole combination was different for exposures at 3Hz and 40Hz.
Some of the final recommendations in this report are also underway. For example:
A Strong Focus on Key Hazards
The Mining Legislative Review Committee’s working groups are being realigned to reflect the priority hazards identified through the Review’s risk assessment. The Committee has created a Ground Control Sub-committee and, at its next meeting, will discuss expanding the Diesel Sub-committee into a Ventilation and Industrial Hygiene Sub-committee. Both changes demonstrate the mining industry’s commitment to focus on these key hazards. Both Sub-committees will continue to work on these issues, recommending regulatory changes to reduce risks.
Strengthening the Mining Workforce
In response to concerns that mine inspectors may not be adequately trained, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s Divisional Learning Group reviewed the training course for newly hired inspectors and made many modifications based on the Review’s findings. The group has also revised the refresher training program for inspectors to include more intensive training on key issues.
More Technical Capacity
The Review highlighted the need for more technical expertise in the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. In response, in the last 12 months the Northern Region has been able to hire two engineers to work in the mining program, and plans are underway to recruit more professional staff.