Results of Ministry of Labour mining workplace inspection initiative
The top health and safety violation in 2017 for the mining industry was related to conveyors, according to the most recent Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) annual report.
In 2018, inspectors visited 86 mining workplaces in Ontario and issued more than 500 orders, plus 30 stop-work orders, during an MOL health and safety inspection initiative focused on conveyor guarding in underground mines and mining plants.
Conveyors are machines used in mines and mining plants to effectively and efficiently move large amounts of material at the worksite. Improperly guarded conveyors are a significant hazard to workers.
“Workers can be exposed to a number of hazards when conveyors are not properly guarded or locked out during maintenance, repairs or other work,” says Philip Dirige, Senior Specialist Ground Control at Workplace Safety North (WSN). “Hazards include incidents such as being caught in or pulled into conveyors, and can easily result in severe consequences like amputations, fractures, and fatalities.
“The typical conveyor belt travels around 400 feet or 122 metres per minute,” says Dirige. “That means the belt is moving about six feet or two metres per second – so tools, loose clothing, hands and arms can be pulled six feet or two metres into a pinch point before there is time to react.”
Between 2012 and 2017, one mine worker died and nine mine workers were seriously injured after being exposed to unguarded running conveyors.
Most frequently issued orders
Orders were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) most frequently for the following reasons:
- Employer failure to ensure equipment, material and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [s. 25(1)(b)]—26 orders or 5.19 per cent of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
- To stop work at the workplace as indicated in the order until the order to stop work is withdrawn or cancelled by an inspector after an inspection [s. 57(6)(b)]—20 orders or 3.99 per cent
- Employer failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [s. 25(2)(h)]—17 orders or 3.39 per cent
- To have a constructor, a licensee or an employer submit to the Ministry of Labour a compliance plan prepared in the manner and including such items as required by the order [s. 57(4)]—12 orders or 2.4 per cent
Most frequently issued orders under Regulation 854: Mines and Mining Plants were for employers’ failure to:
- Make sure the head, tail, drive, deflection and tension pulleys, and (if the lift of the belt was restricted) the return rollers and the carry rollers were guarded by a guard that, unless it would render the pinch point inaccessible, extended at least 0.9 metres from the pinch point [s. 196(3.1)]—50 orders or 29.94 per cent of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
- Conduct a risk assessment of the workplace for the purpose of identifying, assessing and managing hazards and potential hazards that may expose a worker to injury or illness [s. 5.1(1)]—22 orders or 4.39 per cent
- Ensure that every conveyor has an emergency stopping system that operates a manual reset switch that stops the conveyor [s. 196.1(1)]—19 orders or 3.79 per cent
- Have an emergency stopping system [s. 196(3)]—18 orders or 3.59 per cent
- Ensure a machine that has an exposed moving part that may endanger the safety of any person is fenced or guarded [s. 185(2)]—11 orders or 2.20 per cent
The findings of this initiative reinforce the need for a continued focus on conveyor guarding, including other fixed plant operating equipment such as screeners and crushers.
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The initiative results confirm the need for continued focus on improving conveyor guarding in underground and surface mines. A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS). Employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control hazards at mining plants.
Conveyor Assessment Services and Sample Report – Workplace Safety North
Guarding Equipment – Mining Health and Safety Conference Proceeding