Underground refuge stations in mines
Learn the legal requirements and best practices for underground refuge stations in mines.
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We developed this guideline to provide best practice recommendations for workplace parties to consider when fulfilling their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Regulation 854 – Mines and Mining Plants regarding underground refuge stations.
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.
- To provide information on the location, and construction of refuge stations in underground mines.
- To provide information on the required contents, and other considerations to improve the refuge station environment during an underground emergency.
Section 26 of Regulation 854 under the OHSA covers the important requirements.
In the event of a fire or other disaster, refuge stations should be located in all areas underground where there is a possibility that persons may not be able to reach a mine exit in a reasonably short time. A refuge station should be located in a fresh air circuit and away from extreme hazard areas such as diesel repair stations and oil, fuel or explosives storage areas. All persons who are in parts of an underground mine where there are refuge stations should be familiar with the location of those stations.
As per section 26 of Regulation 854, all refuge stations must:
- be constructed with materials that having at least a one-hour fire resistance rating
- Be of sufficient size that will accommodate the workers to be assembled therein
- be capable of being sealed so as to prevent the entry of gases
- have a means of communication with the surface
- be equipped with a means for the supply of compressed air and potable water
In addition to what is required by the regulation as set out above, there are additional considerations or acceptable practices that may apply. These include that refuge stations should:
- be excavated from solid material (rock, salt, gypsum etc.) preferably
- have a steel man door with an air lock system large enough to accommodate a mine rescue team, which can be positively latched and tightly sealed. There should be a small opening to exhaust stale air that can be sealed when required
- be fitted with heaters, or air coolers as applicable; and lights
- contain enough benches to comfortably seat the persons who will use it
- have a drain that will permit the escape of wastewater but will stop the inflow of outside air
- have a container of clay or other caulking compound kept in a condition suitable for use
- have compressed air left on in the refuge station with the door shut to ensure positive pressure, so that no contaminants will enter when workers are first entering
- contain a basket stretcher, blankets and a first aid kit; all of which are regularly inspected and maintained
- have a supply of emergency tools such as axes, saws, ropes, shovels, jacks etc., and a 10 lb dry chemical fire extinguisher
- contain a copy of the fire procedure and the procedure to be followed in the refuge station during an emergency
- have portable latrine facilities for both women and men, including provisions for privacy and toiletries
- have a means of disconnect for A/C units or ventilation fans supplying cool/fresh air to refuge station
- have a means of shutting down or closing intake ventilation pipes used for A/C units or ventilation fans
- be routinely inspected and properly maintained for its intended use
- be clearly marked with signage and locations clearly identified on mine plans
Note: Heat stress should also be considered when developing fire procedures for mines where increasing temperatures inside a refuge station may pose a risk to workers.
The location, size and contents of a refuge station need to be based on a comprehensive risk assessment. Section 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3 of Regulation 854 under the OHSA sets out the requirements to conduct a risk assessment that will aid in the application of the regulations in minimizing the specific hazards at an employer’s workplace.