Print This Page

Internal Responsibility System In Underground and Surface Mines

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: July 3, 2013
  • Content last reviewed: July 2013
  • See also: Mining

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.

Mine workers face hazards that can result in serious, or even fatal injuries and occupational diseases.

During the past three years, nine workers died and 81 workers were critically injured in underground and surface mines. There were also 927 other potentially serious mining incidents reported to the Ministry of Labour.

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is a major component of occupational health and safety in mines.

A workplace IRS requires that everyone – employers, supervisors and workers – take responsibility for health and safety. The goal is to eliminate workplace injuries and deaths.

Workplaces with a good IRS generally have fewer incidents because the IRS promotes compliance with Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

The OHSA protects workers from health and safety hazards on the job. The act:

  • sets out duties for all workplace parties and rights for workers
  • establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards
  • enables enforcement of compliance with the law

A key goal for all workplaces must be to achieve compliance with the OHSA and regulations through a well-functioning IRS.

During mine inspections, ministry inspectors may focus on the IRS by checking that:

  • the employer has a safety policy and that it is reviewed at least annually
  • a program exists to implement the safety policy in the workplace
  • workers are aware of the safety policy and their roles and responsibilities
  • a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative (HSR) is functioning well in the workplace, where required, and safety training is provided to committee members and HSRs, as required by the OHSA

Among other IRS-related duties, the OHSA requires employers to:

  • develop a health and safety policy for the workplace and a program to implement it
  • provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety
  • provide assistance to, and co-operation with JHSCs and HSRs to facilitate fulfillment of their duties
  • appoint a competent person as a supervisor, as defined by the OHSA

Among other duties, supervisors must:

  • work to reduce risk in the workplace by taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (this may include solving problems by responding to workers' concerns)
  • ensure that workers comply with the OHSA and the regulations (this may include working to correct problems and referring problems to higher levels of management when needed)
  • advise workers of any potential or actual health and safety dangers known by the supervisor

Among other duties, workers must:

  • strive to make the workplace safer by reporting any known hazards or any contraventions of OHSA to their supervisor or employer
  • comply with the OHSA and its regulations and use any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer

During mine inspections, ministry inspectors may focus on the IRS by checking that:

  • the employer has a safety policy and that it is reviewed at least annually
  • a program exists to implement the safety policy in the workplace
  • workers are aware of the safety policy and their roles and responsibilities in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace
  • a functioning Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative (HSR) exists in the workplace where required and safety training has been provided to committee members and HSRs, as required by the OHSA

Currently, about 25,000 workers work in the various mining subsectors.The IRS is important in all mines, small and large.

Compliance information

Call toll-free

Call 1–877–202–0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals.

Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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.