Supplying proper quantity and quality of fresh air key to helping prevent lung disease and other illnesses
A new best practices document on proper auxiliary ventilation in underground mines has been introduced by an Ontario mining industry technical advisory committee that focuses on the health and safety of the underground mining workplace environment.
In 2017, mining industry volunteers who make up the Workplace Environment Technical Advisory Committee (WE-TAC) at Workplace Safety North (WSN) undertook the development of a practical guidebook for workers and frontline supervisors about the proper installation and maintenance of auxiliary ventilation in underground mines.
“In hard rock mines, there are various methods for supplying ventilation to the underground work areas,” says Keith Birnie, WSN Industrial Hygienist and Ventilation Specialist and committee coordinator. “There are several common mistakes and oversights, which lead to ineffective or inefficient ventilation systems.”
To make the best use of the available air supply in underground mines, the document addresses the following:
- Focus on auxiliary ventilation systems that provide air directly to the face
- Highlight examples of common mistakes
- Provide simple and practical solutions for employees and frontline supervisors
“The proper installation and maintenance of auxiliary ventilation is extremely important for supplying sufficient quantity and quality of breathable air to mine working areas,” says Birnie, “as well as to dilute and remove airborne contaminants, and to control temperature and humidity of the mine air.”
“The topic is relevant considering the recommendations of the Mining Health and Safety Prevention Review,” says Birnie. “Workplace Safety North and this advisory committee believe ventilation is an important control strategy for occupational disease prevention and ensuring the health of workers in underground mines.”
A variety of factors can cause inadequate air volume reaching the underground workplace. In most instances, the ventilation duct is in poor condition, and basic ongoing maintenance of the auxiliary system is the solution.
Workers in the field must have the tools, equipment, knowledge, and materials available to them to be able to solve the ventilation deficiencies.
Frontline supervisors are responsible for identifying deficiencies and correcting substandard conditions with workers in the field.
“Although maintenance activities require time and resources, they are critical for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace,” says Birnie. “It is critical for this process to follow in-line with mining health and safety’s internal responsibility system – where each and every one of us has a role to play in reporting and dealing with workplace hazards.”
Individual companies are required to develop health and safety policies and programs that apply to their specific workplace sites and comply with appropriate legislation. The information in the reference material is distributed as a guide to assist underground mining operations in developing those policies and programs, according to the committee and WSN.
Workplace Safety North, the Ontario health and safety association for mining and forest products industries, is host to industry advisory committees that tackle top health and safety concerns.
Advisory Committees provide sector-specific expertise and help WSN achieve its mission of helping member workplaces to be the healthiest and safest in the world. The volunteer committees have no administrative authority and are advisory in nature. The Technical Advisory Committees within the Mining Advisory Committee include (i) Ontario Mine Rescue, (ii) Mining Equipment, (iii) Safety and Loss Control, and (iv) Workplace Environment (1) ventilation, and (2) ground control).
Committee participants are individuals who have demonstrated leadership in health and safety at an operational level and are committed to improving worker health and safety. Please contact your WSN specialist or complete the online application form for more information.
For more information, contact Keith Birnie.
Occupational Disease prevention resources includes websites, information sheets, conference proceedings, infographics, posters and more.