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Underground mines are focus of Ontario fall safety blitz

By Mari-Len De Guzman

This fall the Ontario Ministry of Labour will focus on hazards at underground mines in Northern and southern Ontario checking on hazards involving systems used to transfer ore (rock containing metal or minerals) inside underground mines.

Between November and December, labour inspectors will check that: adequate procedures are in place and being used to protect workers from hazards; water is being controlled to prevent hazards; equipment is well designed and maintained in good condition; workers are warned of hazards.

Inspectors will also focus on hazards involving two specific types of systems used to transfer ore inside underground mines: the ore pass, a vertical or inclined passage used for the downward transfer of ore, and loading pocket, which is a chamber excavated in the rock at the base of an ore pass where rock is stored. These two systems are the most hazardous of any ore transfer system, according to the Ministry of Labour

The blitz is part of the Ontario government's Safe At Work Ontario enforcement strategy to increase compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Since 2008, ministry inspectors have conducted more than 345,000 field visits, 47 inspection blitzes and issued more than 560,000 compliance orders in Ontario workplaces.

According to Ministry of Labour data, between 2002 and 2011 there were 56 incidents of wet dangerous material moving uncontrollably through ore transfer points in mines. Miners were working close by in 21 of those incidents. The ministry also found 44 incidents of wet dangerous material free falling from loading pockets down mine shafts.

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