This tip sheet is for employers, managers, and workers of mining operations including underground or surface mines, quarries, processing plants, administration offices, etc. It provides an overview of potential hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and guidance regarding control measures.
COVID-19 is a contagious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Infected individuals can spread the virus through respiratory particles when they cough, sneeze, breathe, etc. People can become infected when they inhale particles that contain the virus or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their face with unwashed hands.
Communicate to all workers and visitors that people who are sick (or may be sick) with COVID-19 should not enter (or travel to) the worksite.
Communicate with any interested stakeholders (e.g., local community leaders) about the COVID-19 precautions being taken at the mine and work camp, as needed.
Inform suppliers and contractors about the current COVID-19 precautions before they arrive at the worksite (e.g., screening, physical distancing, wearing masks).
Train workers to maximize the distance between themselves and others during any interaction with people they do not live with (e.g., accepting deliveries, meeting with inspectors, when visiting nearby communities, etc.).
Consider implementing a rapid testing program for workers to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at the mine or work camp. Tailor the program to your workplace and location.
Comply with any travel requirements (e.g., vaccination or mask wearing requirements).
Allow only essential workers and visitors to access the worksite.
Make sure that ventilation systems for underground mines and process facilities meet the regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction.
Identify areas that may be crowded (e.g., mine entrance, elevators, change rooms, etc.). If necessary, stagger shift and break schedules to avoid having large groups of workers in the same area.
Install sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas (e.g., mine entrance, mess halls, break rooms, entrances, elevators, administration offices, etc.).
Remote mining worksite considerations:
Consider hiring from local communities wherever practical to reduce travel to and from the worksite.
Consider modifying work schedules to decrease the amount of travel in and out of remote worksites.
Provide access (onsite or through other means) to health care professionals in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Implement physical distancing requirements between all workers if COVID-19 is discovered in the work camp or worksite.
During group transportation to and from (and within) mining facilities, consider:
Reducing the number of workers being transported per trip. This change may require using additional vehicles, larger vehicles, or increasing the number of trips.
Chartering worker and contractor-only flights (i.e., with no members of the public on the flight). If possible, charter additional aircraft or vehicles to maximize the distance between passengers.
Providing workers with guidance on how to travel safely to the mine site (e.g., minimizing contact with members of the public, sanitizing hands after refueling, etc.).
Requiring all drivers and passengers to wear masks while riding in a group transport vehicle.
Requiring passengers to maintain at least a 2-metre distance from drivers.
Maintaining physical distancing when boarding and leaving the vehicle.
Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, armrests) after each trip.
Setting vehicle ventilation to outdoor air supply (instead of recirculation) and opening the windows (weather permitting).
Hygiene and cleaning measures to consider:
Assign vehicles, machinery, and equipment to the same worker each shift, if possible.
Reduce workplace transmissions by keeping high-touch surfaces or items (e.g., tools, controls, mining equipment, lifts, hoists, railings, doorknobs, radios, restrooms, and personal protective equipment) clean and disinfected.
Operators of equipment (e.g., haulage truck, scoop tram, etc.) should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces (e.g., cabin controls, dashboard, seats, armrests, handles, touchscreens), before and after each shift and between users.
Consider implementing cohorts at each worksite or treating an entire remote operation as a cohort:
Create teams of workers (cohorts) who will work on the same shifts, if possible.
Cohorts should work, travel, eat, and stay together at the same work camp (if applicable).
Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts.
Make sure each cohort includes critical roles such as first aiders, lead hands, fire and spill team members, supervisors, etc.
Develop and implement an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) protocol. Consider appointing an IPC Coordinator.
Stock infection control supplies on site.
Refer to the work camps tip sheet for additional guidance.
Implement COVID-19 isolation procedures. Consider dedicating an isolation space in the work camp for symptomatic workers. If possible, the space should have a separate entrance, washroom, and shower.
Isolate any worker who reports (or is determined to have) COVID-19 symptoms at the mine or work camp.
Minimize interactions with anyone who is in isolation (e.g., when delivering meals, or providing medical care).
Provide supplies, support, and services (e.g., food, potable water, medication, and means of communication with health care providers) to isolating workers.
Considerations for keeping COVID-19 out of remote worksites:
Implement a thorough screening procedure before transporting workers and visitors to remote worksites.
Ask workers to minimize contact with people from outside their immediate household and to monitor for COVID-19 related symptoms and complete a daily health log for 14 days before arriving at the worksite.
Consider requiring a negative COVID-19 test result for all workers and visitors within 72 hours of their arrival date.
Request that workers to avoid visiting nearby communities during their time off.
Remind workers to bring any essentials (e.g., medications, supplements, devices) to the remote worksite with them.
Consider the Risks
The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased when individuals are exposed to several risks at once, such as:
When person-to-person interactions are longer and more frequent.
In crowded spaces, especially when people cough, sneeze, or exhale forcefully.
In poorly ventilated spaces with other people.
When people have inadequate hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, or do not have access to cleaning facilities and products.
When shared surfaces and objects are touched frequently.
When community COVID-19 hospitalizations or cases are high or increasing.
When sick individuals are allowed to stay in the workplace.
When individuals are exposed to several risks at once.
When other risks are high and workplace health measures are relaxed (e.g., dropping indoor mask wearing requirements, requiring all workers to return to the workplace, etc.).
Consider all possible COVID-19 exposure scenarios in your setting and perform COVID-19 risk assessments. Develop or use an existing risk assessment form to document and evaluate all work setting characteristics, activities, and job roles. It is good practice to review your assessment on a regular basis to make sure your control methods are effective.
Sample questions to ask during a COVID-19 risk assessment:
Are indoor spaces properly ventilated?
Where do individuals gather?
What activities require interactions, communication, or touching shared objects?
How long, frequent, and physically close are interactions between people?
Are people able to maintain adequate physical distance from each other?
Which workers are at higher risk?
What are the high-touch surfaces and shared objects?
Do individuals normally participate in activities that create respiratory droplets (e.g., singing, shouting, etc.).
Are people expected to stay in an enclosed space for an extended duration?
Meet your legal occupational health and safety obligations by doing everything reasonably possible in the circumstances to protect the workers and ensure the health and safety the workplace.
To provide the highest level of protection to workers, use multiple public health measures and workplace controls in a layered approach. No single measure is completely effective alone. Be careful not to create new hazards or negatively impact existing safety controls. Review and adjust measures as necessary in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative.
Create and implement a written workplace COVID-19 safety plan supported by the risk assessment. A written plan may be legally required by the jurisdiction in which you operate. Refer to local authorities for details on what must be included in the plan, if it needs to be posted, etc.
Implement policies and programs to accommodate workers, particularly those who are at high risk of severe disease or outcomes (i.e., immunocompromised, have chronic medical conditions, or are older) from a COVID-19 infection.
Communication and Training
Communicate new and updated workplace controls and applicable public health measures to all workers in languages they understand. Specific training requirements and recommendations may vary depending on your jurisdiction. Allow workers the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns. Respond to questions and provide feedback within a reasonable time.
Train workers on COVID-19 specific topics such as:
Screening: keeping individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 out of the workplace.
Contact tracing: identifying and notifying people exposed to the virus and offering advice.
Screen individuals who enter the workplace, if required by your local jurisdiction. Consider having a screening program even when it is not required as an additional measure to protect your workers.
Determine which type of screening your worksite requires: passive or active.
Passive screening requires individuals to self-monitor and self-report possible illness or exposure to COVID-19.
Active screening requires individuals to respond to questions about signs or symptoms of infection, recent possible
COVID-19 exposures, or recent travel outside of Canada.
Allow individuals that pass the screening to access the workplace. Deny access to anyone who does not pass the screening.
Have workers who do not pass the screening contact their supervisor. The supervisor should instruct them to return (or stay) home and follow local public health guidance which may include isolation, testing for COVID-19, or contacting their healthcare provider or public health authority.
Determine if you are required to implement contact tracing. If so, maintain a list of all individuals (for which contact tracing applies) entering the workplace, including their names, contact information, and time spent in the workplace. This information should be provided to the local public health authority if requested for the purpose of contact tracing. All information must be safely stored and destroyed as required by privacy legislation.
For additional information on screening and contact tracing, refer to:
Ventilate indoor spaces appropriately according to the number of occupants and types of activities.
Open windows and doors to the outside, if possible.
Maintain ventilation systems and seek advice from a ventilation specialist on possible improvements (e.g., increasing air exchanges per hour, reducing or eliminating recirculated air, or upgrading to air filtration and disinfection).
If possible, run ventilation systems continuously or for two hours before and after buildings are occupied.
Run local exhaust fans that vent to the outside to help remove contaminated air.
Make sure that air circulation or cooling fans do not direct air flow from person to person.
If ventilation cannot be improved, consider using portable air filtration units with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters.
Keep indoor humidity between 30% and 50%.
For additional information on indoor ventilation, refer to:
PPE includes such items as respirators, medical masks, eye protection, gloves, and safety footwear.
Eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields) may be worn in addition to a mask when in close physical contact with others. Note: face shields do not provide respiratory protection and cannot replace masks.
COVID-19 PPE policies must not interfere when a higher level of protection is needed for a task.
Workers may need PPE for COVID-19 protection if they are:
Performing tasks that require them to be less than 2 metres from another person.
Using cleaning and disinfecting products (refer to the manufacturers’ safe handling instructions).
Follow the mask wearing requirements of your local jurisdiction. If not required, mask wearing should be encouraged as an additional measure when there is a high risk for COVID-19 spread, or when physical distancing is not possible.
Masks should be comfortable, well-constructed and well-fitting, covering the nose, mouth, and chin.
Consider using masks with a transparent window when communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Masks should not be worn by anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance (e.g., due to their age, ability, or developmental status).
Allow workers to wear masks, even if not required, based on their discretion (e.g., being at risk of more severe disease, working in crowded setting, etc.).
Immediately have them wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, or if neither is available, a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask). A respirator used in this way (i.e., as source control) may not need to be fit tested.
Have them leave as soon as possible.
If they cannot immediately leave, have them isolate in a designated area, away from others, until they can leave.
Call 911 for medical assistance if symptoms are life threatening. If it is a worker, notify their emergency contact.
Complete an incident report and begin an investigation.
Refer to guidance from your local public health authority to determine when the worker can return to work.
Consider updating your sick leave policy to provide support to workers who are or may be sick. Support may include paid or unpaid sick leave, long-term disability, and information on government programs, if available.
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.
For further information on respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information may continue to change, 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.