Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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Introduction

This tip sheet is for employers and workers in the mining sector. It provides an overview of recommended controls to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Additional controls will also be required depending on the workplace and specific types of tasks performed by workers.

Mining workplaces may include underground mines, surface mines, quarries, associated processing plants, and administration offices.

For general COVID-19 prevention practices, employers and workers can refer to the CCOHS COVID-19 Resources documents, including “Protect Yourself and Others”.

In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and your jurisdictional health and safety regulator must be followed.

Consider the Risks

  • The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases in situations where people are in closed spaces (with poor ventilation) and crowded places when with people from outside their immediate household. Risk is higher in settings where these factors overlap or involve activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting or heavy breathing (e.g., during exertion).
  • As a mining worker, potential sources of exposure include:
    • having close contact with another person who has COVID-19.
    • touching surfaces or items that have been touched or handled by a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Each workplace is unique. Employers need to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their workers. These precautions include assessing the risks of COVID-19 for their specific workplace and the activities conducted by their workers.
  • Employers must then implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative policies, and the use of personal protective equipment). Use multiple personal preventive practices in a layered approach.
  • Implement a written workplace safety plan that identifies potential exposures to COVID-19 and the controls implemented to protect workers.
  • Employers should consider the following:
    • Where and when do workers interact with others at the workplace?
    • How close are the interactions? The risk of transmission increases with close and frequent contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
    • How long are the interactions? Person-to-person spread is more likely with prolonged contact.
    • Where are workers taking their breaks and eating meals? Can physical distancing be maintained?
    • Can barriers be installed where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing?
    • How often are surfaces and objects cleaned and disinfected?
    • Do workers have the knowledge they need to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19?
    • Are you able to assess if a worker may have COVID-related symptoms, and rapidly take appropriate actions?
    • Are precautions in place at mining camps and during group transportation (if applicable)?

Vaccine

  • Encourage workers to get the vaccine.
  • Workers who are vaccinated should continue to follow all required public health precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others.
  • Employers should maintain their COVID-19 workplace controls, no matter how many of their workers are vaccinated, until public health restrictions are reduced.
  • For additional information on the vaccine please refer to the Government of Canada website “The facts about COVID-19 vaccines”.

Screening

  • Actively screen all persons who enter the workplace (workers, visitors, contractors, etc.). Use a checklist, a web-based tool, or have a designated person ask screening questions.
  • Workers who have COVID-19 symptoms should return home (or to the mining camp) immediately or stay home if already there. If they develop symptoms at work, they should put on a medical mask, or if unavailable a well constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask and advise their supervisor. They should also contact their health care provider and local public health authority and follow their instructions.
  • Follow local public health authority guidance for testing symptomatic workers who are staying at mining camps. If trained staff are available, it may be preferable to test workers at camp.
  • To support contact tracing efforts, record the names and contact information of all workers and other persons who enter the workplace, as required by your local public health authority. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored securely. Contact information must be destroyed in a timely manner according to privacy laws.
  • If a worker tests positive for COVID-19 and the case is work-related, additional notifications may be required (e.g., the jurisdictional health and safety regulator and worker compensation board). Complete an incident report and begin an incident review.
  • Have available, or have a plan for ready access to, the necessary health care professionals needed to support any COVID-19 cases among workers.
  • If a visitor screens positive for COVID-19 they should not enter the workplace. They should wear a medical mask and return home immediately.
  • If readily available and feasible, consider implementing routine rapid testing as an additional active screening measure. Consider how you will manage the response to a rapid test result.

Travel from Other Provinces or Territories

Mines can be in remote locations and employers may hire workers from outside the region or province/territory. Some mines have “fly in, fly out” or “drive in, drive out” operations. It is very important for employers to have precautions in place so that COVID-19 is not introduced into small, remote communities by new or returning workers. These communities may not have the same healthcare resources as larger communities.

Below are some tips related to travel:

  • Some provinces or territories have specific quarantine requirements for inter-provincial or inter-territorial travel. Refer to the Government of Canada website “Provincial and Territorial Restrictions” and comply with any applicable quarantine requirements.
  • Extend work cycles (where possible and considering other factors such as fatigue) to minimize the frequency of travel and to stagger the arrival and departure of different groups of workers.
  • Provide services for workers to safely return home in the event of a family or health emergency.
  • Use a local workforce wherever practical to reduce the need to bring in workers from other locations.
  • Consider having worker and contractor-only flights (i.e., with no members of the public on the flight).
  • Charter more aircraft or vehicles (where possible) to allow for the greatest possible physical distancing.
  • Screen passengers before leaving for the site. Consider implementing rapid testing as part of the screening program.
  • All passengers should wear well-constructed and well-fitting masks when on a plane or in the vehicle.
  • Provide workers with guidance on how to travel safely if they are driving to the mine site (e.g., minimizing contact with members of the public, disinfecting hands after refueling).
  • Ask workers to create and submit a travel safety plan that outlines their driving route, stops that will be taken, and precautions that will be followed. Ask workers to pack adequate supplies (e.g., food, water, sanitizer, and masks) and have a plan for obtaining additional provisions (if required) to avoid interactions with local communities. Provide workers with an essential services worker letter that explains why they are travelling in case they are asked questions by local authorities.

Group Transportation

Some employers provide daily transportation for workers (e.g., from the mining camp to the mine). Consider implementing the following precautions:

  • Assess the number of workers being transported at any given time and limit vehicle occupancy to ensure physical distancing between workers is maintained. This action may require using multiple vehicles, larger vehicles, or having multiple trips with fewer workers.
  • Have workers travel together with the same cohorts or teams.
  • Workers should be screened for COVID-19 related symptoms before being transported to the worksite.
  • All drivers and passengers should wear masks while riding in a group transport vehicle.
  • Keep the driver and passengers separate by installing a physical barrier or by marking off a space of two metres between the driver and the passengers to which the passengers do not have access.
  • Passengers should be spaced apart as much as possible. Provide a minimum of 2 metres between passengers, such as assigned seating in a staggered pattern, blocking the use of certain seats, and leaving every other seat empty.
  • Maintain physical distancing when boarding and leaving the vehicle.
  • Employers should ensure that high-contact surfaces (e.g., door handles) within the vehicle are cleaned and disinfected between each trip.
  • Increase the amount of fresh outside air entering the vehicle by opening the windows (weather permitting) and setting the vehicle ventilation system to outside air. Avoid using the recirculated air option in the vehicle when transporting workers.

Communication and Training

  • Provide information and instruction to workers about the hazards of COVID-19 and what they need to do to protect themselves and others. Topics should include:
    • What COVID-19 is and the common symptoms.
    • How the virus spreads.
    • Screening and what to do if workers feel sick or may have been exposed.
    • How to protect themselves and others by layering multiple hazard controls and personal preventive practices at once.
    • How to properly wear, handle, and care for personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Safe use of cleaning and disinfection chemicals.
    • How to stay informed about COVID-19 (using reputable sources).
    • New and updated work practices and policies.
  • Encourage workers to report any COVID-19 concerns to their supervisor or employer. Workers can also report concerns to their health and safety committee or representative, or union if present.
  • Provide regular communications so that workers are informed of updates and have an opportunity to discuss their questions and concerns.
  • Review existing methods of communication to decide which methods (e.g., bulletin board, email, team meetings, text, phone calls) are the most reliable to inform workers about COVID-19 updates.
  • Post signs throughout the workplace, as a reminder about the precautions to follow (e.g., hand hygiene, physical distancing).
  • Provide mental health support resources for all workers, including access to an employee assistance program (EAP) if available.
  • Communicate with any interested stakeholders (e.g., local community leaders) about the COVID-19 precautions being taken.

Suppliers and Contractors

  • Make sure that suppliers and contractors are subject to the same COVID precautions as other workers on site (e.g., screening, physical distancing, wearing masks).
  • Communicate all changes to COVID-19 precautions to suppliers and contractors. Make sure they understand and comply with changes.

Reducing Potential Exposures

  • Assign a worker to coordinate infection prevention and control measures and to monitor public health advisories.
  • Create teams of workers (cohorts) who will work on the same shifts, if possible.
  • Determine if any workers can work remotely (e.g., roles that perform administrative functions). Provide ergonomic support and resources for workers setting up home offices.
  • Restrict access to the workplace to essential workers and visitors only.
  • Eliminate non-essential work travel for all workers.
  • Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as handshakes.
  • Avoid in-person meetings and training sessions where possible. Use remote communications methods instead (e.g., teleconferencing, videoconferencing). When in-person meetings and training are required, use a large well-ventilated space, instruct participants to stay the greatest physical distance (at least 2 metres) apart, wear a mask, and limit the number of participants. If possible, hold meetings and training outside.
  • Some jurisdictions have limits on the number of people that can be in a space at the same time, both indoors and outdoors. Always follow local public health requirements.
  • Reduce the amount of paper documentation or other items being exchanged between workers. Consider using electronic methods to exchange documents. If this exchange can’t be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling items.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.

Physical Distancing

  • Keep the greatest physical distance possible (at least 2 metres) from others at the workplace.
  • Avoid non-essential in-person interactions and keep essential interactions as few and as brief as possible.
  • Identify areas that may be crowded (e.g., mine entrance, change rooms). Remind workers to maintain physical distancing. If necessary, stagger shift and break schedules to avoid having large groups of workers in the same area.
  • Space chairs apart at least 2 metres in cafeterias, meeting rooms and break areas. Remove chairs if necessary.
  • Post capacity limits at entrances to shared areas (e.g., washrooms).
  • Maintain physical distancing during breaks and meals. Since masks can be removed when eating or drinking, limit the number of people taking breaks at the same time. Arrange for breaks to occur in larger spaces or outdoors (weather permitting) and at staggered times.
  • For travel underground (e.g., mobile personnel carriers or mine cage), limit the number of workers to allow for more space. To the extent possible, maintain a two-metre distance between workers and avoid having workers positioned face-to-face.
  • Review how specific activities are conducted to determine if there are any situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Precautions include reorganizing the task, installation of barriers, or the use of PPE such as masks and eye protection.

Ventilation

  • Make sure that ventilation systems for underground mines and process facilities meet the regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction.
  • For buildings (e.g., offices, mining camp buildings), consult a ventilation specialist to determine whether any enhancements can be made to the ventilation system(s) (e.g., increasing the percentage of fresh air intake, increasing air exchange rates, and improving filtration).
  • Verify that the mechanical ventilation system(s) are operating properly.
  • Make sure that regular inspections and preventative maintenance for ventilation system(s) is conducted according to manufacture’s instructions.
  • For additional information on indoor ventilation, please refer to:

Physical Barriers

  • Install physical barriers in areas where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing (e.g., screening areas, eating areas).
  • The physical barrier should be made from a non-porous material such as plexiglass than can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
  • For additional information, please refer to the CCOHS resource “Physical Barriers”.

Personal Hygiene

  • Encourage frequent and proper hand washing with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Place hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas (e.g., workplace entrances). Ask everyone who enters the workplace to perform hand hygiene with hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands at the start of shift, before eating or drinking, after touching shared items, after using the washroom, after cleaning and disinfecting objects, before and after putting on or removing PPE or a mask, and at the end of the shift.
  • Discourage individuals from touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and from touching the outer surface of their mask while wearing or handling it, as it may be contaminated.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene. Provide disposable tissues and remind individuals to cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue and to dispose of tissues immediately, followed up with hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.
  • Verify that all necessary materials are readily available in the workplace (e.g., hand sanitizer, no-touch waste receptacles, disposable tissues).

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Viruses can remain on objects for a few hours to days depending on the type of surface and environmental conditions.
  • The disinfectant used should have a drug identification number (DIN), meaning that it has been approved for use in Canada.
  • Workers should be trained on the safe use of the cleaning and disinfecting products. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using, handling, or storing the product. Review the product’s label, and (if applicable) safety data sheet to determine what precautions to follow.
  • Select PPE that will protect workers from both the hazard of COVID-19 and the hazard of potential chemical exposure from the cleaning and disinfectant products used.
  • All surfaces or items that are touched by or in contact with workers should be cleaned and disinfected. For example, tools, controls, equipment, lifts, hoists, railings, doorknobs, tables and chairs, radios, restrooms, and PPE.
  • Allocate vehicles, machinery, and equipment to the same people each shift, if possible, to avoid any potential for contaminated surfaces.
  • Operators of equipment (e.g., haulage truck, scoop tram) should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, before and after each shift and between use by different operators (if applicable). Examples of frequently touched surfaces include: the inside of the cab, dashboard, operator controls, seat, and inner / outer door handles.
  • Change out of work clothing at the end of each shift and wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not store street clothes and work clothing in the same space unless both are clean.

Wearing Masks

  • Wear a well-fitted and well-constructed mask when:
    • you’re in a shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of your immediate household
    • advised by your local public health authority
  • At meals, keep masks on as much as possible, and only take it off when eating and drinking.

Work Cohorts

  • Depending on the nature of the work, the employer may consider creating cohorts of workers (teams, crews).
  • Cohorts should operate as a unit, and work, travel, eat and stay together at the same work camp (if applicable).
  • Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts and should not socialize with other cohorts (e.g., during shift changes).
  • The use of cohorts helps reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and helps with contact tracing if a positive COVID-19 case is found in the workplace.
  • Consider critical roles required for each cohort team.

Mining Camps and Accommodations

  • Determine if your province or territory has any specific requirements related to camps. For example, British Columbia has implemented an “Industrial Camps” Order (May 12, 2021) that requires measures such as:
    • Developing and implementing an Infection Prevention and Control Protocol.
    • The ability to rapidly detect and isolate a worker who may be infected with COVID-19.
    • Making sure that a worker in isolation has the required supplies, support, and services (e.g., food, potable water, medication, and means of communication with health care providers).
    • Appointing an Infection Prevention and Control Co-ordinator.
    • Arranging for a Health Officer or Provincial Infection Prevention and Control Officer to inspect the accommodation and vehicles used to transport workers.
    • For additional information refer to British Columbia’s “Industrial Camps” Order.
  • Some provinces and territories (e.g., Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon) have guidance documents for camps. Review available guidance material.
  • Ask workers to monitor for COVID-19 related symptoms and complete a daily health log for 14 days prior to arriving at camp.
  • Encourage workers to minimize contact with people from outside their immediate household for 14 days prior to arriving at camp.
  • Pre-screen all workers for COVID-19 prior to arriving at camp, and complete daily screening.
  • Any worker with symptoms, or who has been exposed to COVID-19, should be isolated from others. Have procedures and a dedicated space for the worker to isolate (e.g., a room with a separate entrance) and a separate washroom and shower that is only used by that worker. Deliver meals to the outside of the room of any worker in isolation.
  • Handle the isolated worker’s laundry (sheets, towels, clothes) with gloves. Do not shake dirty laundry. Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Machine wash using the warmest appropriate water setting (preferably hot water at 60 to 90°C), use laundry detergent, and dry thoroughly.
  • All camps should have infection control supplies available on site.
  • Essential camp visitors should not have access to the physical infrastructure of the camp (e.g., kitchen, shower facilities, sleeping areas) unless necessary.
  • Provide facilities and services to workers, such as meals, communication systems, internet facilities and laundry, to enable workers to remain in their individual accommodation and at the camp when not at the worksite.
  • Workers should avoid visiting any nearby communities during their time off. To facilitate this:
    • Arrange for all supplies to be delivered, if possible, to the camp or ask one person to shop for the group.
    • Ask workers to try and pack any essentials (e.g., toiletries, medications) that they will need.
  • For meals:
    • Discontinue buffet service.
    • Remove shared food, condiment, and utensil stations.
    • Do not share food, unwashed eating utensils and beverage containers.
    • Stagger mealtimes or increase hours of availability when practical.
    • Remove or rearrange dining tables to maintain physical distancing.
    • Place tape or other markings on floors to maintain physical distancing.
    • Make sure that kitchen staff are following safe food handling protocols.
  • For sleeping areas:
    • Provide private sleeping quarters wherever possible (e.g., individual rooms).
    • Arrange shared sleeping quarters so that beds are as far apart as possible (at least 2 metres) and the workers sleeping position is head to toe where possible.
    • If beds can’t be placed 2 metres apart, use barriers between beds, such as curtains, to help prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
  • Encourage workers to participate in activities that help them stay healthy, rest, eat a balanced diet, and stay in contact with friends and family through phone calls, social media, texts, or e-mail.
  • Before workers travel from camp to their home communities, they should be assessed for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their departure.

For further information, please refer to the CCOHS tip sheet “Work Camps”.

COVID Alert App

  • Provide workers with information about the COVID Alert App that can be installed on their phone. This app is designed to let Canadians know whether they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The app maintains your privacy; it does not record or share your geographic location.

Evaluate Controls

  • Regularly review the adequacy of the controls implemented and make improvements as necessary.
  • Determine if there are any new hazards created by any of the changes implemented at the workplace. For example, if work cycles are extended, what can be done to promote wellness and manage fatigue?
  • Review and adjust programs as necessary.

Business Continuity Plans

  • Review and adjust business continuity plans to address issues related to COVID-19 such as what to do in the event of an outbreak, and how communication will be coordinated with stakeholders such as health and safety regulators and local public health authorities.

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated June 9, 2020