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BACKGROUNDER

Blitz Targets Underground Mine Ventilation

Mining inspectors will focus on diesel emissions and other hazards that could affect air quality during a blitz in underground mines in January and February.

The increased enforcement is part of the province's Safe At Work Ontario strategy, launched in June 2008.

The Ministry of Labour inspectors will check that employers are complying with recent changes to emission requirements for diesel-powered equipment under the Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.

The changes better protect workers from the potentially harmful effects of diesel emissions by:

  • Setting a lower allowed limit of carbon exposure for workers and
  • Requiring equipment be tested under consistent conditions

The changes went into effect on January 1, 2012.

Poor air quality in underground mines can lead to occupational illness and death of workers. In particular, workers are at risk when exposed to carbon monoxide in diesel exhaust.

Underground mines can have poor air quality when:

  • There are too many "particulate particles" (a mixture of various chemical solids and gasses including carbon and nitrous oxide) and other airborne substances such as dust in the air and/or when
  • Fumes emitted by diesel-powered equipment are over the prescribed limits

To protect workers, the new amendments require employers to:

  • Perform routine testing to determine the carbon monoxide content of exhaust from diesel-powered equipment under consistent conditions
  • Develop and implement testing measures and procedures for diesel-powered equipment, in consultation with the mine's Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative
  • Provide test results, as required, to the JHSC or health and safety representative
  • Investigate overexposure by workers to diesel emissions and take remedial action, if possible, to prevent future incidents

The mining regulations are part of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Blitz Focus

Inspectors will target underground mines that use diesel equipment, including:

  • Mines with large fleets of diesel equipment operating in the underground environment
  • Recently reopened or new mines operating diesel equipment
  • Mines where previous ventilation concerns were observed, and
  • Mines with a poor health and safety compliance history

Inspectors will check on two types of equipment:

  • Diesel equipment used for underground transportation of workers and materials and blasting of rock and
  • Ventilation systems used to deliver fresh air to underground mines

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, for any contraventions found under the OHSA and its regulations.

Priorities

Mining inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:

Committee Consultation: Inspectors will check that employers have developed and implemented testing measures and procedures for each piece of diesel equipment, in consultation with the JHSC or health and safety representative.

Diesel Equipment: Inspectors will check that equipment used for underground transportation of workers and materials is being regularly tested, as required.

Workplace Air Sampling: Inspectors will check that employers are regularly testing the air in underground mines to ensure exposure to toxic airborne substances do not exceed the prescribed limits.

Bill Killorn, Minister's Office, 416-326-7708
Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405

ontario.ca/labour-news
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