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Blitz Results: Diamond Drilling

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

Ontario’s diamond drilling industry has experienced significant growth in size and in workforce numbers since early 2009. Although the number of incidents remains unchanged, the potential exists for more workers to be injured.

In June 2011, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz in the diamond drilling industry.

The blitz was conducted to promote:

  • compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and
  • improved safety of surface diamond drill sites, which are predominantly located in Ontario’s northern regions.

Report summary

Since January 2009, seven workers at diamond drill operations received serious injuries. Two of the workers received critical injuries resulting from entanglement in rotating drill equipment.

During the same period, the workforce for surface diamond drill operations increased by 64 per cent. Many of the workers are new or young workers.

During the month-long blitz, ministry mining inspectors visited 38 workplaces, some of them more than once. In total, 61 visits were made resulting in 191 orders being issued. Sixty-three of those orders were stop work orders.

During June 2011, 65 per cent of the orders were for violations of the OHSA. The rest of the orders were for violations involving the Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants.

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 may refer employers to Health and Safety Associations for compliance assistance and training.

Blitz Focus

During the surface diamond drill blitz, inspectors checked that:

  • Diamond drill workers were trained, as per specific requirements of the Regulation for Mines and Planting Plants. The training called “Common Core” educates workers on the mandatory safe practices when using diamond drills.
  • Diamond drill sites were properly supervised and that supervisor contact information was available and known to the workers on site. Inspectors checked records of the supervisors’ visits and the frequency of the visits to the drill sites. The location of these sites can be in remote areas of the province and not always easily accessible.
  • Emergency preparedness plans for the evacuation of workers requiring medical attention were developed and kept on site for the protection of the workers.
  • Guarding devices where in place to protect workers from entanglement with rotating drill rods or other equipment.

Inspection activity

On average, ministry inspectors issued three orders per field visit during the month-long enforcement focus on surface diamond drill sites. Inspectors conducted 61 field visits to 38 workplaces and issued 191 orders, 63 of which were stop-work orders.

Order analysis

Orders were issued for various violations under the OHSA and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.

Table 1: Mining sector diamond drill blitz inspections in June 2011, and
total mining sector diamond drill inspections January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2010
  Mining sector diamond drill blitz inspections
June 1 to June 30, 2011
Total mining sector diamond drill inspections
January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2010
Orders – diamond drilling 191 2,656
Stop-work orders 63 701
Orders per field visit 3 2
Stop-work orders per field visit 1 2
Field visits 61 1,233


Figure 1: Historical Data - Mining Health and Safety Program (MHSP)

Bar graph: Number of orders issued by inspectors for the mining program from 2000 to 2010. See Figure 1 Data table below for graph details.

Figure 1: Data Table

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
MSHP Orders 20 18 103 205 211 253 253 380 506 149 558


The number of orders issued by inspectors for the mining program has increased significantly, according to ministry data from 2000 to 2010.

Almost one-third of the orders (32.5 per cent) were for violations involving worker protection [OHSA Section 57(6)(a)]. This type of order requires work to stop until the contravention has been addressed.

Almost one-quarter of the orders (24 per cent) related to employers not taking reasonable precautions to protect workers [OHSA Section 25(2)(h)].

Violations involving guarding of exposed moving parts of machinery [Mining Regulation Section 185(2)] accounted for 8.4 per cent of the orders.

Another six per cent of orders related to violations involving a requirement that employers provide suitable access for workers to perform work, operate, service or maintain equipment [Mining Regulation Section 46(2)].

Another six orders related to worker training and a requirement to establish training programs [Mining Regulation Section 11].

Inspectors wrote two orders relating to the providing of information, instruction and supervision to a worker [OHSA Section 25(2)(a)].

Conclusion

Surface diamond drilling can be hazardous work if proper measures are not taken to minimize the risk of injuries to workers.

The rising number of orders resulting from diamond drill site inspections suggests the sector has grown substantially since 2000. The blitz indicates a need for continued routine enforcement of diamond drill sites to ensure compliance and worker safety.

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 will continue to focus resources on the type of hazards found during the diamond drill blitz when doing routine inspections of Ontario’s diamond drill sites.

Inspectors will continue to check that drills are in safe operating condition and that employers are providing training and safe workplaces for diamond drill operations.

In the future, inspectors may also focus on underground diamond drill sites. More workers are employed as diamond drillers in underground mines as a result of increased exploration and other activities.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). The effective use of the IRS promotes a strong health and safety culture in workplaces were workplace parties can come together to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

Employers, supervisors, workers, their health and safety associations and the government all have key roles to play in workplace health and safety to prevent worker injuries and deaths.

For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling diamond drill site hazards, please contact our partners.