During a blitz in July and August 2017, Ministry of Labour inspectors:

Inspectors checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. In particular, they checked for hazards that could lead to occupational disease. This included possible worker exposure to diesel exhaust, silica and other designated substances and chemical or biological hazards.

The goals of the inspection blitz were to:

  • raise awareness of key health and safety hazards to prevent occupational disease at mines and mining plants across the province
  • increase workplace compliance with the law
  • prevent injuries from unsafe work practices

Occupational disease at mines and mining plants

Occupational disease is one of the biggest contributors to workplace fatalities in mines and mining plants.

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 106 occupational disease fatalities in Ontario’s mining sector, based on Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) data.

Occupational disease can occur when workers are exposed to chemical, biological, or physical hazards. In particular, it can result from airborne dust particles, exhaust and other fumes caused by blasting, crushing, smelting, refining and other mining processes. Exposure can lead to serious harm or death.

Many occupational diseases are permanent or have lasting effects once they develop. Some diseases are diagnosed years after a worker is exposed to a harmful agent. In some cases, the agents that led to the exposure may still not be well controlled.

It may be possible to prevent occupational disease if the right controls and protections are put in place. Employers are required to protect workers from hazards that can lead to occupational disease. Employers must balance the need for quality work with the need to protect workers from long-term health effects and/or injury.

Full report

Workplace inspection blitzes

Inspection blitzes are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We announce to the sector, in advance, that we will be doing a blitz, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of the blitz 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.

Blitz focus

Ministry inspectors visited underground and surface mines and mining plants across Ontario between July 1 and August 31, 2017. In particular, they targeted:

  • mining plants where previous incidents occurred
  • mining plants with a poor compliance history
  • recently reopened or new mining plants

Inspectors, engineers and hygienists checked that:

  • employers were meeting requirements for ventilation in the workplace, including for operation of underground diesel equipment and auxiliary ventilation in work headings (Sections 183.1 and 253 of the Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants)
  • occupational exposure monitoring programs for silica were in place, including personal sampling, completed in areas of known or expected exposures in both surface and underground operations
  • control programs were developed in consultation with the workplace’s Joint Health and Safety Committee or worker health and safety representative (if any in the workplace)
  • designated substances in mills and smelters were being controlled by assessments and control programs for arsenic, asbestos (found in mined material and in tramp material), isocyanates (used in ground control), lead and silica, as required by regulation

Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the OHSA or its regulations, including:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to make them comply with legal requirements
  • requiring employers to provide information to the inspectors
  • issuing stop work orders which require employers to comply with the requirements included in the stop work order before work could continue

Inspection activity summary

  • 37 mining workplaces visited
  • 48 field visits with 20 field visits in a support role
  • 361 orders issued footnote 4 for a number of violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations
  • The total orders included:
    • 48 stop work orders
    • 18 requirements to provide inspectors with workplace information
  • an average of 9.8 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 7.5 orders and requirements issued per field visit

Most frequently issued orders

Orders were issued the most frequently during the blitz for the following reasons:

  • employer failure to make sure the head, tail, drive, deflection and tension pulleys, and if the lift of the belt was restricted, the return rollers and the carry rollers were guarded by a guard that, unless it would render the pinch point inaccessible, extended at least 0.9 metres from the pinch point [Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants s. 196(3.1)] – 42 orders or 11.63% of the total orders issued during the blitz
  • to stop work on any place, equipment, machine, device, article, thing, process or material until the order is complied with [OHSA s. 57(6)(a)] – 37 orders or 10.25%
  • employer failure to make sure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer were maintained in good condition [OHSA s. 25(1)(b)] – 35 orders or 9.7%
  • employer failure to make sure a machine that has an exposed moving part that may endanger the safety of any person was fenced or guarded [Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants s. 185(2)] – 18 orders or 4.99%
  • employer failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for protection of workers [OHSA s. 25(2)(h)] – 14 orders or 3.83%
  • to require the employer to produce to the inspector any drawing, specifications, licence, document, record or report [OHSA s. 54(1)(c)] – 10 orders or 2.77%
  • to stop work at the workplace as indicated in the order until the order to stop work is withdrawn or cancelled by an inspector after an inspection [OHSA s. 57(6)(b)] – 10 orders or 2.77%

Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review

In December, 2013, the Minister of Labour asked Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer to start a Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review focusing specifically on the occupational health and safety needs of the underground mining sector.

The review identified key health and safety issues which were studied by external subject matter experts.

The findings of the review were published on April 15, 2015, along with 18 recommendations, all accepted by the Minister of Labour.

One of the key recommendations of the Mining Review final report would require employers in the mining sector to develop an occupational disease program for the protection of workers to diseases in mines and mining plants.

We are currently working with the Mining Legislation Review Committee (MLRC) to implement this recommendation from enforcement and mining regulatory viewpoints.

Conclusion and next steps

Employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control hazards at mining plants.

Ministry inspectors will continue to focus on hazards involving occupational health and safety of workers, including hazards involving guarding of machinery and conveyors, which accounted for the majority of the orders (including stop orders) issued during the blitz.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information on occupational disease prevention, guarding of equipment, locking and tagging and worker training.

Occupational exposure limits (OELs) restrict the amount and length of time a worker is exposed to airborne concentrations of hazardous biological or chemical agents. For more information, visit the Ministry of Labour’s OEL webpage.