The Ontario Ministry of Labour will conduct an enforcement blitz at mining operations throughout the province in September to “check for hazards involving live electrical equipment,” in order to reduce workplace injuries.
The blitz is part of the Safe at Work Ontario campaign, which was launched last summer, and will see inspectors checking for electrical hazards that can result in death or injury, and inspecting electrical equipment and practices at underground mines, aggregate operations and surface plants.
“With our Safe at Work Ontario blitz program what we would like to see is a change in terms of the work health and safety culture in the workplace and ensuring that best practices are brought to workplaces across Ontario in a proactive manner,” Labour Minister Peter Fonseca tells COS.
“This is the approach that we’ve taken to be able to lower lost-time injury rates and especially to address fatalities that occur in a workplace.”
According to a statement issued by the ministry, “most electricity-related injuries occur while workers are doing work near equipment with electrical hazards.”
As well, during the past nine years there were 70 electricity-related fatalities in all sectors. Thirty-four of those took place “while workers were working near exposed electrical equipment, 29 in which workers were working on energized equipment and seven were working on faulty equipment.”
“We know the electrical hazards in underground mines, but also in surface plants and aggregate operations are where we see a prevalence of these type of injuries,” Fonseca says. “So we have a targeted, focused approach through our Safe at Work Ontario program and mines are one of the areas that we feel needed this approach.”
Before the Safe at Work Ontario blitzes occur, the ministry advises the particular sector so that they are “well aware,” Fonseca says.
“Our health and safety associations … can provide the tools so that companies can have the best policies and procedures in place, in terms of health and safety,” he says.
Inspectors will be targeting mining operations that have been identified as high priority due to possible electrical hazards, are known to have highly hazardous processes and equipment, and sites “where complaints have been received and where there is a poor compliance history.”
The blitz will focus on checking that workers aren’t working on energized equipment, unless they’re permitted to, that they comply with electrical lockout procedures, and that employers “have analyzed job hazards and tasks to determine the adequacy of clothing, equipment and procedures to protect workers from electrical shock and burns.”
The ministry says enforcement action will be taken by inspectors, as appropriate, to contraventions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.
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