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Blitz Results:
Personal Protective Equipment in Mining Workplaces

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: April 2011
  • Content last reviewed: April 2011

Non-compliance, poor practices and deficiencies involving personal protective equipment are a potential problem at any mine or mining operation in Ontario.

This equipment plays a significant role in protecting workers from injury or death. It includes fall arrest harnesses, lanyards (connecting lines from the ladder to an anchor to protect workers against falls), safety belts, shock absorbers, boot treads, safety glasses, hardhats, gloves and earplugs.

From November 1 to 30, 2010, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted a blitz to enforce compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.

The goal was to check for compliance with requirements that safety gear be worn by workers to protect them against hazards related to, among other things, falls, collisions involving workers and vehicles resulting from reduced visibility of the worker, and atmospheric contaminants. Inspectors checked to ensure the gear was in good condition and being used correctly.

Report summary

Safety gear can protect workers from falls, collisions involving workers and vehicles, and health-related impacts of atmospheric contaminants in mining workplaces.

Since 2002, five workers have died in Ontario mining workplaces due to falls. Between 2005 and 2009, 13 workers were seriously injured in mining workplaces due to falls. Between 1996 and 2006, visibility of workers was likely a factor in more than half of 76 vehicle incidents reported to Workplace Safety North. As well, between 2005 and 2009, 63 of 70 allowed fatal occupational disease claims involving mine workers were related to lung and breathing illnesses.

In November, 2010, MOL inspectors conducted 77 field visits and issued 59 orders under the OHSA and the Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants, including one stop work order.

Full report

Workplace inspection blitzes

Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry’s website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its safety regulations.

Inspectors’ findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors refer employers to Health and Safety Associations for compliance assistance and training.

Blitz focus

During the personal protective equipment blitz in mining workplaces, inspectors focused on, among other contraventions:

  • Falls from heights
  • Pedestrian contact with vehicles
  • Atmospheric hazards (for example, exposure to dust, diesel emissions and other hazardous gases)

MOL inspectors visited mining workplaces, including:

  • Underground mines
  • Sand and gravel pits
  • Open pits and quarries
  • Mine surface plants
  • Diamond drills

In particular, inspectors targeted mining workplaces:

  • Identified as being high priority due to the number of protective equipment-related falls, worker visibility and atmospheric contaminants issues
  • Known to have hazards involving falls, worker visibility and atmospheric contaminants
  • Where complaints have been received, and
  • Where there is a poor compliance history.

Inspection activity

Inspectors conducted 77 field visits and issued 59 orders. This included one stop work order at a gravel pit for workers not wearing fall arrest equipment, hard hats or hearing protection.

Order analysis

Orders were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants (Ontario Regulation 854/90).

Some of the contraventions involved:

  • Inadequate reflective striping on clothing
  • Presence of dust
  • Workers observed without hard hats, protective toe work boots and without required hearing and eye protection
  • Absence of a rescue plan for workers suspended by a fall arrest system
  • Improper respirator care and improper testing to ensure proper respirator fit
  • Malfunctioning retractable lanyards
  • Fall arrest systems and applicable Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards

The top three sub-sectors visited were:

  • Sand and gravel pits (29 field visits)
  • Pits and quarries (25 field visits)
  • Mine surface plants (18 field visits)

The top two contraventions were:

  • Failure of employers to ensure protective devices are provided, maintained and used as prescribed (OHSA Section 25(1)), and
  • Failure to comply with general requirements (Mining Regulation Section 12).

Compliance help for employers

Employers are encouraged to seek workplace health and safety compliance assistance from the health and safety associations that comprise Health & Safety Ontario: Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, Public Services Health & Safety Association, Workplace Safety North, and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

Next steps

The Ministry of Labour will continue to address safety issues related to personal protective equipment during routine inspections at Ontario mining workplaces.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). A well functioning IRS is when all workplace parties share responsibility for occupational health and safety. Employers, supervisors, workers, health and safety associations and the government all have key roles to play in taking responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, leading to the elimination of workplace injuries and deaths.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards in both underground and surface environments.

For more information on identifying, controlling and preventing hazards, please contact:

Workplace Safety North (WSN)
Telephone: 705-474-7233
Toll-free: 1-888-730-7821
Fax: 705-472-5800

Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA)
Telephone: 905-625-0100
Toll-free: 1-800-263-5024
Fax: 905-625-8998