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Ontario targets underground mines in latest safety blitz

By Mari-Len De Guzman

The Ontario Ministry of Labour will target underground mines in the province checking for poorly maintained ventilation systems and diesel equipment as part of its latest safety inspection blitz under the Safe At Work Ontario strategy.

Government mining inspectors will be visiting mining sites in the province between October and November to ensure that workers have adequate supply of clean air while working underground, through properly maintained ventilation systems and diesel equipment.

The inspectors will also check for evidence that employers are regularly conducting workplace air sampling, a Ministry of Labour statement said.

Ventilation hazards are a serious concern in underground mines, many of which operate diesel equipment. The air in poorly ventilated mines can contain toxins, which can cause occupational disease and even death.

Between 2005 and 2009, 176 workers died and another 36 workers developed occupational diseases related to respiratory illnesses in the mining sector, according to claim information from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Between January 1, 2009 and March 31, 2011, ministry mining inspectors issued the over a hundred ventilation-related orders to underground mine operators, 79 of which relate to employers’ failure to provide adequate ventilation and 39 orders involved removal of dust and other hazardous airborne material.

Since 2008, Ontario safety inspectors have made more than 266,000 field visits and conducted 34 inspection blitzes. Inspectors have issued more than 425,000 compliance orders since 2008, the ministry said.

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