On October 13, Workplace Safety North (WSN) hosted a joint webinar with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD), titled “Healthy workers in health workplaces initiative – occupational disease.”
“While working in a closed underground environment, miners can be exposed to airborne hazards such as diesel emissions and silica, putting them at higher risk of developing occupational illness,” said Keith Birnie, WSN Industrial Hygiene and Ventilation Specialist, and one of the speakers at the online seminar.
“During 2019 consultations, the mining industry indicated a need to raise awareness of procedures current with workplace hazardous materials information system requirements, and the Mine Safety Review ranked respiratory exposure hazards as one of the top five hazards,” he noted.
Between 2008 and 2017, long-latency illnesses – illnesses in which there is a long delay between exposure to a disease-causing agent and the appearance of disease symptoms – accounted for the largest proportion of allowed Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefit costs.
Seventy per cent of allowed long-latency illness claims over the past 10 years come from lung cancer, pleural plaques, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which are all associated with respiratory exposures. Working in a closed underground environment, miners can be exposed to airborne hazards such as diesel emissions and silica, putting them at higher risk of developing occupational illness.
From October 31 to December 30, 2022, Ministry inspectors will be conducting a provincial inspection blitz on hazards associated with air quality and workplace hazardous materials in underground mines. Presenters Keith Birnie, WSN Industrial Hygiene and Ventilation Specialist will speak about prevention, and Scott Secord, MLITSD Provincial Mining Specialist, will discuss what to expect for the inspection blitz.
In the webinar, participants learned about issues related to occupational diseases in the mining sector, including requirements for air quality in mines and mining plants, pits, and quarries with regards to exposures to dust, silica, diesel particulate matter (DPM), radon, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) for chemicals and re-agents at mining workplaces.
Inspectors focus on hazards that can cause occupational disease
Between October 31 and December 30, 2022, inspectors will check mining workplaces to ensure employers:
- Follow requirements for air quality in mines and mining plants, pits, quarries for exposures to dust, silica, diesel emissions in underground mines, chemicals, and re-agents at workplaces
- Dilute or remove contaminants to prevent worker exposure that is above legal limits
- Test for diesel emissions and diesel particulate matter (see the guidelines on testing undiluted exhaust in underground mines and sampling for diesel particulate matter in mines)
- Complete occupational exposure monitoring in areas of known or expected exposures
- Have assessments and control programs in place for designated substances (for example, silica) and dust
- Follow WHMIS including proper labelling and worker education is completed
- Communicate Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals components
Participants are encouraged to ask questions in the webinar using the Q&A box or to pre-submit a question upon registering. Questions and answers will be reviewed at the end of the presentation.
To learn more, visit workplacesafetynorth.ca/events.
Ministry resources and compliance assistance
- Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants
- Designated Substances Regulation 490/09
- Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents Regulation 833
- Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation 860
- Sampling for Diesel Particulate in Mines
- Testing Undiluted Exhaust in Underground Mines
- Final Report: Mining Health and Safety Prevention Review
Keith Birnie, WSN Industrial Hygiene and Ventilation Specialist, was a co-presenter at a joint webinar with the Ministry to discuss how to prepare for the Ontario mining inspection initiative on occupational disease.