Ontario has about 40 underground mines, with about 25,000 workers, mostly in Northern Ontario. Minerals such as copper, nickel, gold and other precious metals, diamonds, salt and gypsum are extracted from them.

Ontario also has several thousand surface mines, with about 20,000 workers. Minerals such as gold, palladium, platinum, nickel and copper as well as material such as limestone, sand and gravel are extracted from them.

The ministry’s mining program focuses on areas where workers may not be safe. They work with stakeholders to ensure that all workplaces comply with the law. In 2017-18, mining inspectors focused on:

  • occupational disease in mines and mining plants
  • falls (including slips and trips) and musculoskeletal disorders in mines and mining plants
  • use of personal protective equipment and high visibility clothing
  • noise
  • joint health and safety committee compliance
  • ground control
  • electrical/mechanical - mine hoist plants

Mining health and safety initiatives

In 2017-18, the Mining Program conducted health and safety initiatives aimed at occupational diseases, falls (including slips and trips), musculoskeletal disorders, and personal protective equipment and high visibility clothing.

Occupational disease in mines and mining plants

Occupational disease is a leading cause of death in mines and mining plants. It can occur when workers are exposed to chemical, biological or physical hazards.

In July and August 2017, inspectors checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations to protect workers from hazards that lead to occupational disease. This included:

  • exposures to diesel exhaust, silica and other designated substances
  • chemical or biological hazards

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—48
  • workplaces visited—37
  • orders and requirements issued—361
  • stop work orders—48
  • orders and requirements per field visit—7.5
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—9.8


Falls (including slips and trips) and musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the leading type of injury in the mining sector. In 2015, MSDs accounted for 36% of all lost-time injuries.

In October and November 2017, inspectors checked for hazards that lead to MSDs, such as manual materials handling and hand-arm vibration. They reviewed:

  • risk assessments, which include MSD hazards
  • MSDs that have occurred
  • joint health and safety committee minutes

Inspectors also checked whether access to workplaces is adequate to prevent slips, trips and falls. Fall hazards in mines include:

  • slippery surfaces (oily or greasy)
  • seasonal slip, trip and fall hazards, such as snow or ice
  • spills of wet or dry substances
  • changes in walkway levels and slopes
  • unsecured mats
  • unsafe use of ladders
  • poor lighting
  • debris and cables in walkways
  • smoke, steam or dust obscuring view
  • lack of guardrails on mezzanines and balconies
  • poorly maintained equipment

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—93
  • workplaces visited—62
  • orders and requirements issued—470
  • stop work orders—38
  • orders and requirements per field visit—5.05
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—7.58


Personal protective equipment and high visibility clothing

In February and March 2018, mining inspectors conducted a health and safety inspection initiative checking that workers wore personal protective equipment to perform their work. This included high visibility safety apparel.

Inspectors also checked that traffic management programs include distracted driving. A 2016 risk assessment with mining industry and labour representatives found that distracted driving was a top risk in surface mining.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—111
  • workplaces visited—89
  • orders and requirements issued—297
  • stop work orders—38
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.7
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—3.3


Provincial mining enforcement initiatives

In 2017-18, the ministry conducted provincial enforcement initiatives in the mining sector that focused on noise, Joint Health and Safety Committee compliance, ground control and electrical/mechanical mine hoist plants.


In 2017-2018, mining inspectors and the ministry’s Specialized Professional Service (SPS) staff focused on the noise regulation. This initiative looked at eliminating or controlling how much workers are exposed to noise to protect them from hearing loss.

When the prescribed exposure limit to noise is exceeded, employers must enact protective measures.

In this initiative, inspectors and SPS staff looked at measures to prevent noise- induced hearing loss. These include:

  • engineering controls to reduce noise
  • work practices such as equipment maintenance (to keep it quieter) or scheduling to limit a worker’s exposure time
  • hearing protection devices
  • signs that indicate where the sound level regularly exceeds the exposure limit

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—70
  • workplaces visited—45
  • orders and requirements issued—214
  • stop work orders—11
  • orders and requirements per field visit—3.06
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—4.76


Joint health and safety committee compliance

In 2017-2018, the ministry’s Mining Health and Safety Program focused on joint health and safety committee (JHSC) compliance, including:

  • a functioning JHSC
  • safety training
  • consulting with the JHSC or HSR (health and safety representative) where required
  • electing certified members of the JHSC
  • functions of the JHSC
  • frequency of meetings
  • minutes of meetings

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—14
  • workplaces visited—14
  • orders and requirements issued—49
  • stop work orders—1
  • orders and requirements per field visit—3.5
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—3.5


Ground control

In 2017-2018, the ministry’s Mining Health and Safety Program continued to focus on surface and underground mines, including:

  • ground control plans
  • unsupported underground openings
  • ground support quality control
  • ground instability record keeping

 Inspectors checked that ground support quality control programs:

  • covered all types of ground support in use at a mine
  • have been properly installed and has effective ground support
  • are being implemented, as required
  • have test records available for review
  • have test records available to the mine’s JHSC

 In addition, the inspectors checked that:

  • the mine has a complete, up-to-date record of all rockbursts and uncontrolled falls of ground
  • the record is used to update the mine’s design
  • all record entries have been reported to the Ministry of Labour
  • ground left unsupported complies with regulations

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—35
  • workplaces visited—26
  • orders and requirements issued—172
  • stop work orders—18
  • orders and requirements per field visit—4.9
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—6.62


Electrical/mechanical - mine hoist plants

In 2017-2018, electrical/mechanical inspectors focused on mine hoisting plants to ensure requirements were being met.

Inspectors checked:

  • shaft inspection procedures
  • shaft log book entries
  • conveyance guides are being measured for wear
  • frequency of measurements

Inspectors also focused on other areas, including the:

  • shaft design to ensure it has been certified by a certified professional engineer
  • communications system between persons at the shaft collar, shaft and hoist room
  • design and maintenance of shaft lining and infrastructure
  • lock-and-tag procedures are in place

Inspectors also checked on the automation of mine hoists, including:

  • training
  • hoist operators’ workload
  • hoist instructions between workers

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—14
  • workplaces visited—6
  • orders and requirements issued—29
  • stop work orders—5
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.07
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—4.83


Regional mining enforcement initiatives

Eastern Region: Quarry blasting operations

Over the years, there have been fatal accidents and injuries caused by hazards such as:

  • flying rocks
  • collapsing wall surfaces
  • uneven blasted quarry floor

It is extremely dangerous to work with large volumes of explosive materials. Workplaces must follow the required standards to protect workers and local residents.

From May 1, 2017 to October 31, 2017, ministry inspectors conducted an initiative to raise awareness on working safely in blasting operations at quarries. Inspectors visited quarry blasting operations in the Eastern Region to educate employers on:

  • fall protection and safety measures for workers working exposed to the hazard of falling
  • safe blast design to reduce fly rock
  • notifying the Ministry of Labour when using of explosives or explosive magazines on site

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—5
  • workplaces visited—5
  • orders and requirements issued—6
  • stop work orders—0
  • orders and requirements per field visit—1
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—1

Northern Region: Point-in-time inspections (surface and underground operations)

In 2015/16, the ministry’s Northern Region piloted 4 “point-in-time” (PIT) inspections at underground mines. This provides a picture of a mine’s health and safety program and its internal responsibility system (IRS).

The PIT inspection teams originally included mining and electrical mechanical mining inspectors, the regional program coordinator and mining engineers. Their inspections lasted 3 to 5 days.

Currently, the PIT inspection teams include inspectors and Specialized Professional Services staff, such as ergonomists and occupational hygienists. The engineering portion of the inspections are done separately. At the end of the PIT inspection, the ministry provides the mine with a field visit on the results, including any orders.

A PIT inspection builds teamwork amongst the inspectors and encourages the sharing of knowledge and expertise. This improves consistency in service delivery. The region now conducts 4 underground and 2 surface PIT inspections yearly, along with regular inspections.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—119
  • workplaces visited—8
  • orders and requirements issued—494
  • stop work orders—45
  • orders and requirements per field visit—4.15
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—61.75

Northern Region: Mining engineering reviews

In 2015, the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review made recommendations to address the priority hazards in all Ontario mines. The ministry’s Northern Region and the Occupational Health and Safety Branch developed a mining engineering review program to address this recommendation.

In 2017-18, mining engineers and mining inspectors are reviewing the three priority hazard programs: ground control, water management and ventilation for all underground mines in Ontario. The engineering review will cover 40 mines and will be completed by about the end of 2020.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—50
  • workplaces visited—28
  • orders and requirements issued—134
  • stop work orders—6
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.6
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—4.7