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Blitz Results: Modular Training in Underground and Surface Mines 2015

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: April 25, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: April 2016

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Work in underground and surface mines can be very dangerous. Workers can be injured or even killed if they are not properly trained for the work they perform.

In October and November 2015, Ministry of Labour inspectors visited underground and surface mines across Ontario. The mining inspectors checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). This includes training requirements under Section 11 of the Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.

The blitz’s goals were to:

  • raise awareness of training requirements at underground and surface mines
  • increase workplace compliance with the law and
  • prevent injuries and illnesses that could arise from inadequate training

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

Background

Mining inspectors issued 213 orders for training violations under Section 11 of the mining regulations during a four-year period between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2015.

Many of these orders could have resulted in serious injuries to workers in mines, mining plants and at exploration sites.

Training has also been raised by Coroner’s juries at mining inquests as an issue that Ministry of Labour inspectors should focus on.

Employers are required to develop specific training, based on the Ontario government’s standardized course materials. This is to ensure safe workplaces for all mine workers.

Training programs are required for:

  • hard rock mines such as nickel, copper, gold and diamond mines
  • soft rock mines such as salt and gypsum mines
  • surface mines such as sand and gravel operations and pits and quarries
  • diamond drill exploration sites underground and on surface
  • supervisory training program for mine supervisors

Section 11 sets out the training requirements.

Report summary

During the October and November 2015 blitz, ministry inspectors conducted 78 field visits to 67 mining workplaces. Some of the mines were visited several times. Inspectors issued 192 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 16 stop work orders.

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 notified 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

Mining inspectors checked that employers were meeting the Section 11 training requirements to ensure mine workers have the specific training needed to safely perform their jobs.

The inspectors visited underground and surface mines across Ontario. In particular, they targeted:

  • recently reopened or new mines
  • mines where previous incidents were observed
  • mines with a poor compliance history
  • mining plants such as smelters and mills
  • mine exploration sites

Inspectors checked that:

  • employers had established and are maintaining training programs, as required by the mining regulations
  • workers were registered in the appropriate training program and were trained for the work they performed
  • workers had completed appropriate common-core training “modules” (short courses that focus on specific mining job skills ) within required timeframes
  • all completed training modules were accredited by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) and
  • proof existed that required training was completed by workers

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 blitz’s activity.

Table 1: Visits to mines
Program Activities Numbers
Field visits 78
Number of workplaces visited 67
Orders issued 192
Stop work orders 16
Requirements 7
Orders and requirements per workplace visited 2.87
Orders and requirement per visit [1] 2.46

[1]Some mines were visited more than once

Order analysis

Orders were issued under the OHSA and mining regulations for various violations.

Table 2: 10 Most frequently issued orders under the OHSA and mining regulations during blitz
Reason for order Number of orders Percentage of total orders during blitz
Employer failure to ensure employer’s equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition [OHSA s. 25(1)(b)] 17 8.85%
Employer failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [OHSA s. 25(2)(h)] 17 8.85%
Employer failure to establish and maintain the following training programs:
  • Common Core for Surface Miner;
  • Specialty Modules for Surface Miner
    [Mining Reg. s. 11.2 (1)]
10 5.21%
Employer failure to equip non-rail motor vehicle with type BC fire extinguisher when in use [Mining Reg. s. 105(1)] 7 3.65%
Employer failure to ensure worker is trained in appropriate common core modules before beginning specialty module training [Mining Reg. s. 11.2(4)] 7 3.65%
Employer failure to ensure conveyor has
  • pull cord to stop conveyor at accessible locations
  • means to safely apply belt dressing while the conveyor is in motion
  • start-up warning device for when conveyor is started automatically by remote control or where conveyor portion(s) are not visible from operator’s position and
  • guarding devices for any accessible pinch points on head, tail, drive, deflection and tension pulley [Mining Reg. s. 196(2)]
6 3.13%
Employer failure to ensure
  • workplace, travelway, manway or other area is closed by barricades, fencing or other suitable means and
  • warning signs are posted in underground mine areas where repairs or dangers exist [Mining Reg. s. 68]
6 3.13%
Employer failure to ensure procedure for testing, maintenance and inspection of each motor vehicle is adopted and includes requirement to provide record of completion [Mining Reg. s. 105(7)] 5 2.60%
Failure to examine ground conditions for hazards and, if required, make safe before work begins in underground mine [Mining Reg. s. 66(1)] 4 2.08%
Employer failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety [OHSA s. 25(2)] without limiting strict duty imposed by OHSA s. 25(1) 3 1.56%

Prevention

In December 2013, the Minister of Labour asked Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer to undertake a Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review focusing specifically on the occupational health and safety needs of the underground mining sector. The review identified several significant hazards which were studied by subject matter experts.

The review’s findings were issued on April 15, 2015, along with 18 recommendations, all accepted by the Ontario Labour Minister.

Two of the review’s 18 recommendations address worker training and a need to create a consistent modular training program. The Ministry of Labour is currently reviewing these recommendations from an enforcement and mining regulatory viewpoint. MTCU administers the training program.

Conclusion and next steps

This blitz focused on Section 11 requirements under the mining regulations.

More than 10 per cent (23 orders) of the total orders issued (192 orders) involved MTCU training requirements. This demonstrates a need to continue focusing on compliance with training requirements when preforming inspections at underground and surface mines.

A high priority for the ministry is the need to have workers trained for the work performed and educated on hazards in the workplace.

For this reason the Ministry of Labour will continue to review compliance related training requirements.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system. Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control all hazards.

Compliance help for employers

Please contact Ministry of Labour health and safety partners for more information on health and safety. For more information on MTCU modular training requirements, visit the MTCU website.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.