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Blitz Results: Mining Explosives Blitz 2014

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: February 2, 2015
  • Content last reviewed: February 2015

Improper storage or handling of explosives can result in serious injuries or death to mine workers. An incident involving a storage area or surface blast can even injure members of the public and damage property outside an underground mine, open pit mine or quarry.

Workplace health and safety is an important issue for Ontario mines. Mines with safe practices involving explosives generally have fewer incidents. The Ministry of Labour is committed to keeping workers safe on the job at mines across the province.

In July and August 2014, mining inspectors and engineers conducted an enforcement blitz to check for hazards involving the use, handling and storage of explosives at surface and underground mines across Ontario.

Explosives are used to break rock so the rock can be more easily moved from the mine for processing. Explosives can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken.

During the mining blitz, inspectors checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The goal was to:

  • raise awareness of explosives hazards
  • promote compliance with legislation and best work practices
  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards
  • improve health and safety of workers in underground and surface mines

Protection of mine workers is part of the government's continued commitment to prevent workplace injuries and illness through its Safe At Work Ontario strategy.

Report summary

During the July and August 2014 blitz, ministry inspectors conducted 55 visits to 49 workplaces. They issued 182 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants for various violations including four stop work orders.

Prior to the blitz, between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2014, ministry inspectors issued 256 orders for violations including explosives storage and handling sections of the mining regulations. Many of these violations could have resulted in serious injuries to workers and the public.

As of January 13, 2015, about 90 per cent of the orders issued during the blitz were complied with.

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 regulations.

Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency 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

Inspectors focused on:

  • recently reopened or new mines
  • mines with a poor compliance history

They checked that:

  • explosives storage areas were located and constructed in compliance with legislated requirements and inspected by a supervisor, as required
  • measures were in place to control inventories of explosive products
  • adequate written procedures existed for the disposal of damaged explosives and that they were developed in consultation with the mine's Joint Health and Safety Committee and communicated to workers
  • workers were adequately trained on safe handling procedures for explosives
  • employers had submitted notices of any defective explosives to the Ministry of Labour

Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations found under the OHSA or its regulations.

Inspection activity summary

Table 1 below is an overall summary of the enforcement blitz activity.

Table 1: Visits to mines
Program Activities Number
Field visits 55
Number of workplaces visited 49
Orders issued [1] 182
Stop work orders 4
Requirements 13
Orders and requirements per workplace visited 3.7
Orders and requirements per visit 3.3

[1] All orders including stop work orders.


Order analysis

Orders were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants for various violations.

Table 2: Most frequently issued mining explosives-related orders under the OHSA and Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants during the blitz
Reason for Order Number of Orders Percentage of Orders Issued During Blitz
Failure to comply with requirement that every magazine and every storage container be kept clean, dry and free from grit at all times (Mining Regulation S. 128(1)) 14 7.69%
Failure to comply with requirement to produce to the inspector any drawing, specifications, licence, document, record or report (OHSA S. 54(1)(c)) 12 6.59%
Failure to comply with requirement damaged explosive be disposed of in accordance with specified rules (Mining Regulation S. 128(4)) 9 4.95%
Failure to comply with requirement, a weekly inspection of an underground mine magazine be carried out by a competent person who must submit in writing a report to a supervisor on the quantities of stored explosives (Mining Regulation S. 127(2)(b)) 5 2.75%
Failure to comply with requirement for an operator of a surface magazine or mine using explosives to give written notice to a ministry inspector and mine's Joint Health and Safety Committee or health and safety representative (Mining Regulation S. 123(4)) 4 2.20%

Prevention

The Ministry of Labour has undertaken a Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review with a report to be delivered to the Minster of Labour in early 2015.

An interim progress report from the Review outlines a number of initiatives intended to improve health and safety in Ontario mines, including identification of sector-specific hazards for Joint Health and Safety Committee certification training. Further training and guidance information will be developed for these hazards.

In support of health and safety in Ontario mines and controlling explosives hazards, Workplace Safety North (WSN) and the Ministry of Labour conducted a webinar providing information about the Mining Regulation which covers topics like training, inventory and control, transportation and handling, and disposal. WSN also produced a checklist related to explosives hazards to help ensure compliance with the legislation.

Conclusion and next steps

The results of this blitz confirm the ministry's need to continue focused enforcement on mine explosives hazards in underground and surface mines.

The level of security that protects the general public must be considered to ensure stored explosives are only accessed by appropriate persons and used only for their intended purposes.

Compliance help for employers

For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards, please contact Ministry of Labour safety partners.