Overview

From July 15 to September 27, 2019, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) conducted a health and safety initiative which focused on ground control at mines and mining plants.

We began by focusing on education, outreach and awareness partnering with Workplace Safety North (WSN) to provide training and education to employers. The goal was to help employers comply with the requirements for ground control under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations prior to focused inspections.

Beginning August 6, 2019, we conducted a focused inspection blitz at mines and mining plants to check that employers were complying with the OHSA and Regulation 854: Mines and Mining Plants. In particular, inspectors reviewed:

  • ground control plans (unsupported underground openings, ground support quality control and ground instability record keeping)
  • mine design
  • communication programs
  • procedures for installation of ground support
  • quality control programs

Our inspectors:

  • conducted 10 field visits with six support role activities footnote 1
  • visited eight mining workplaces
  • issued 36 orders and requirements, including one stop work order

Ground control

Workers face health and safety risks from hazards that can lead to the collapse of excavated rock or stockpiled material in underground and surface mines. Ground instability has been one of the biggest causes of fatalities in underground mines in Ontario. Since 2000, 10 workers have died and nearly 50 have been critically injured in underground mines in Ontario as a result of falls of ground.

The Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review ranked four of the top five highest risks as ground control issues.

Our health and safety initiative focusing on ground control at mines and mining plants is one way we address this hazard.

Full report

Workplace inspection initiatives

Inspection initiatives are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We announce to the sector, in advance, that we will be conducting an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of the initiative are typically posted online within 90 days. Inspectors’ findings may impact the number and level of future inspections of individual workplaces.

Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Focus of the initiative

We provided information on the initiative on July 23, 2019 at a webinar co-hosted by the ministry and Workplace Safety North (WSN). The webinar offered details on what our inspectors would be looking for during the blitz, OHSA requirements for ground control in mines and mining plants, and gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions about ground control.

Hazards involving ground control mainly involve:

  • struck by falling, sliding or toppling rock
  • rockburst and violent ejection of material from an excavation’s back or walls
  • diminished boundary pillars
  • ground support:
    • unsupported
    • deterioration of existing support
  • Backfill material failure in stopes

Inspectors focused on:

  • ground control plans: inspectors checked unsupported underground openings, ground support quality control and ground instability record keeping
  • mine design: inspectors checked that a proper engineering analysis had been conducted to predict issues that could lead to falls of ground and rockbursts in new or existing excavations in mines
  • written procedures: for installation of ground control
  • quality control plans: for ground support installation
  • communication programs: inspectors checked that ground control information between supervisors and workers had been developed, and that it had been prepared in consultation with the joint health and safety committee

Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations.

This included:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to have them comply with legal requirements
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue

Inspection activity summary

This is a summary of the number of visits to workplaces and orders issued:

  • 10 field visits with six support role activities
  • 8 workplaces visited
  • 36 orders and requirements issued
    • 31 orders issued for violations under the OHSA and its regulations, including one stop work order
    • 28 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 4.5 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 3.6 orders and requirements issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

Most of the orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) were for the following reasons:

  • failure to produce documentation [s. 54(1)(c)] – 27 orders or 75.00% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • stop work order [s. 57(6)(a)])] – 1 order or 2.78% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • training, scaling [s. 25(2)(a)] – 1 order or 2.78% of the total orders or requirements issued during the initiative

The most frequently issued orders under Regulation 854: Mines and Mining Plants were for employers’ failure to:

  • assess and update mine design annually [s. 6(3))] – 2 orders or 5.56% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • provide information in ground control program [s. 73(1))] – 1 order or 2.78% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • support or have loose areas [s. 66(1))] – 1 order or 2.78% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • provide professional engineer’s report [s. 6.1(2)(b))] – 1 order or 2.78% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative

Observations

The results of this initiative indicate that workplace parties need to improve compliance with ground control:

  • Workers continue to be exposed to hazards involving ground control.
  • Heightened awareness of any hazard can bring change. All workplaces parties must continue to be diligent and not allow complacency to creep into their daily routines.
  • The risk of ground falls can be prevented by raising awareness and taking proper precautions.

Conclusion and next steps

Ministry inspectors will continue to pay attention to the above areas of concern including hazards related to ground control.

The results of the initiative confirm our need to continue to focus on ground control in underground and surface mines.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS). Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control all hazards.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information on the hazards associated with mobile equipment.

Related links


Footnotes

  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph Activities in which professional services staff (e.g., a hygienist, ergonomist, engineer, etc.) or another inspector accompanies an inspector on a field visit to provide professional support and/or expertise.
Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: February 27, 2020