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In the News
In Canada, mining contributes to the livelihood of many families and communities, along with our national economy. We constantly use and depend on products and technologies - in our cars, homes, hospitals, even on our bodies - that originate from the earth's mineral resources.
From diamonds in the Northwest Territories, to coal in British Columbia, to uranium in Saskatchewan, to iron in Newfoundland, more than 1200 mining operations are located throughout the country, in almost every province and territory. The industry employs 418,000 workers in mineral extraction, smelting, fabrication and manufacturing. For those who work in our diverse mining environments, hazards are an everyday, constant reality of the jobs they do.
Although injuries and fatalities have been on the decline, and despite a core emphasis on safety culture, there are still workers who lose their lives or are injured while performing their jobs in mining environments. After the deaths of three workers in Sudbury mines prompted calls for an inquiry, the Ontario government initiated a review of mining safety procedures in January 2014. Key issues were identified by the advisory group in its preliminary report released in September.
The progress report draws on perspectives from labour, industry, academic, health and safety experts, as well as the public. Although some of the issues apply specifically to roles, processes, and initiatives in Ontario, there were important areas highlighted that make good safety sense for mining operations across the country.
Internal Responsibility System
At public consultations and in written submissions, the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) was the most-discussed topic.
Stakeholders agreed that an effective IRS is critical to a safe workplace. As the underlying philosophy of the occupational health and safety legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions, the IRS recognizes that the employer and employees all have a shared responsibility for keeping the workplace safe and healthy. After all, managers, supervisors and employees know their work best. Internal responsibility promotes self-reliance, a safety culture, best practices, and compliance.
The general provisions of IRS give employers the latitude to implement measures and control procedures that are appropriate for their individual workplaces. Workers help achieve and maintain a safe and healthy workplace by performing assigned duties, using safety equipment as required, correcting or reporting unsafe conditions or accidents, and participating in joint problem solving. The joint health and safety committee or representative also plays a contributing role. IRS is a dynamic system which involves cooperation, leadership, and open and honest communication.
High visibility apparel
It was also noted in the public consultations that operators of heavy mobile equipment have restricted lines of sight, and that poor visibility of employees was cited as a factor in fatalities in four Coroners' reports. To help workplaces increase the visibility of employees in low-light and underground mining environments, the Ontario Ministry of Labour developed a best practice guideline on high visibility apparel.
The requirements for high-visibility safety apparel (HVSA) for Canadian workers are found in the CSA Standard Z96-09 and in the related guideline CSA Z96.1. The ministry recommends that at the minimum, workers in pits and quarries and on surface areas of underground mines be provided with CSA approved class 2 high visibility safety apparel. Class 2 garments offer full coverage of the upper torso and include bib-style overalls. Stripes/bands are composed of retro-reflective or combined performance materials.
Class 3 garments go a step further and add retro-reflective striping on each limb to provide visible clues about how the worker is moving and in what direction. Class 3 apparel is recommended for underground workers, surface workers that work in very low light or night time conditions, and emergency responders.
Note that the first line of defence for worker safety is to look at ways to control the design of the workplace and to reduce exposure to moving vehicles through physical barriers and other engineering and administrative controls. HVSA should be used as a last line of defence.
New technologies in mining have the potential to improve health and safety by introducing new methods of controlling hazards. At the same time, stakeholders expressed concern about the potential occupational health hazards introduced by the development and use of new technologies. They caution that new technology or production methods may be implemented without proper communications to employees about why the change was made, how health and safety was factored into the process, or how they would be trained.
It was suggested that an industry best practice on change management could be one way to ensure employees are included as part of the transition to new technologies. Other ideas focused on information sharing. Stakeholders recommended that the health and safety system make new "safety focused" technologies known to the industry. They also proposed sharing information about advances in other sectors. For instance, the use of high visibility garments in the construction sector could be a valuable source of information to address similar issues faced in the mining industry.
The preliminary report from the mine safety review provides an overview of several other key issues including the role of inspectors and joint health and safety committees, effective control of known hazards in the industry, and the effects of fatigue, mental stress, and drug and alcohol use. The final report will be ready early next year.
Mining is a necessary industrial activity and with it comes inherent risks and hazards, but injuries, disease and deaths do not have to be accepted as unavoidable or inevitable.
On November 5th, the Learning Partnership's Take Our Kids to Work™ program will give grade 9 (or equivalent) kids the opportunity to get out of their classrooms and into the working world, spending the day in a Canadian workplace. For many kids, the workplace they encounter will be a new and unfamiliar environment, so keeping them safe and instilling in them the importance of workplace health and safety is a priority for their parents, teachers and employers. Properly planning for the day will help make sure that it's exciting, informative and safe.
Teachers and Parents: Preparing the kids for the workplace
It's important that young people receive information about health and safety prior to their workplace visit. They need to know and understand their rights and responsibilities for jobs they may hold now and in the future. Parents need this same information and to be aware of the work that their children will be doing during their visit. They should ask questions about health and safety concerns and how they are being addressed in the workplace, and should encourage their kids to do the same.
Teachers should encourage all participants in the Take Our Kids to Work program to commit themselves to a safe day. On forms, include a section demonstrating that students have read and discussed materials on health and workplace safety before participating.
Employers: Preparing the workplace to keep the kids safe
In preparation for Take our Kids to Work, workplaces should conduct an inspection prior to the day with a view to youth workplace safety. One of the first things employers should do on Take Our Kids to Work day is hold workplace orientations with the students that focus on health and safety issues relevant to that environment. Workplaces should use the expertise of their health and safety personnel to assist with the orientation if possible. Students should be supervised all day while they are at the workplace site and should only be allowed to undertake tasks and experiences for which they have been properly oriented. In the work environment, students should be encouraged to speak up about health and safety concerns, ask questions, and comment on situations they observed during the day.
Visit The Learning Partnership website to register your participation, download resources and posters, and learn more about the Take Our Kids to Work program.
Young Workers Zone from CCOHS offers resources for young workers, parents, employers and teachers to help young people be healthy and safe at work.
Learn about the free Teaching Tools.
Watch the free webinar: Help Your New Workers Stay Safe.
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts offer tips for managing workplace stress, and feature an encore presentation of what you can do to detect the presence of radon.
Feature Podcast: Managing Workplace Stress
John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist at the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, discusses how to manage workplace stress and shares prevention strategies.
The podcast runs 11:09 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Putting the Spotlight on Radon
You can't detect the presence of radon but did you know it's a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment? This podcast explains what radon is and what the potential health effects to workers are. CCOHS also shares how workplaces can detect the presence of radon and most importantly, how exposure can be controlled.
The podcast runs 5:22 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Entering the work world can be an exciting time for students. There's money to be earned, new people to meet, and useful skills to learn. But it's important to remember that despite the many perks, no job is ever worth getting hurt over. There are things you need to know to stay safe on the job. Help get the message out by entering the "It's Your Job" video contest, and you could win cash prizes and recognition.
Now in its third year, this contest invites high school students to use their creativity to develop an original video that can be used in social media to illustrate the importance of working safely on the job.
Who can enter
The contest is open to current secondary school students in Canada. Employees of provincial or federal workers' compensation boards, provincial and federal ministries and departments of labour and their immediate family members are not eligible.
In total, there are three ways to win:
Each province and territory will hold its own contest. To learn more about the rules, contest entry forms, and awarding of prizes please go to the national contest page below and click on the province or territory where you live.
Winners of provincial and territorial contests move on to the national stage. The first place secondary school video at the Canadian finals will be awarded $2,000, second place will receive $1,500 and third place will get $1,000. Each winning secondary school will receive a matching prize equal to the total prize awarded to the winning student or team of students.
A selection of top videos from each province and territory will be posted publicly online from Saturday May 2 to Sunday May 10, 2015, where Canadian viewers can vote for their favourite video. The video that receives the most votes will receive a $1,000 prize.
Visit the national contest page, with links to all provincial and territorial contests.
I've been hearing a lot about a new WHMIS that's coming to Canada. What is it all about? Do I need to get new material safety data sheets and labels?
WHMIS - the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System - was introduced in 1988. The main components of WHMIS are hazard identification and classification, labelling, material safety data sheets, and worker training and education.
WHMIS is not going away, and the essential elements of WHMIS such as labels, safety data sheets (MSDSs/SDSs) and training will remain. However, soon WHMIS will be changing to implement new rules for classification and labelling, and an internationally standardized Safety Data Sheet, as developed by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Health Canada is the government body responsible for making the required changes to the federal WHMIS-related laws. Health Canada is working to synchronize implementation of the GHS for workplace chemicals in Canada as much as possible with the final implementation of the GHS in the 2012 Hazard Communication Standard for workplace chemicals in the United States.
Why make changes?
Currently different countries have different systems for classification and labelling of chemical products. In addition, several different systems can exist even within the same country (for example, for chemicals during transport versus in the workplace). This situation has been expensive for governments to regulate and enforce, costly for companies who have to comply with many different systems, and confusing for workers who need to understand the hazards of a chemical in order to work safely.
GHS promises to deliver several distinct benefits. Among them are:
When is this happening?
Changes to the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) received Royal Assent in June 2014. These changes will enable Canada's implementation of the GHS for workplace chemicals. In addition, Health Canada has published a proposal to repeal the Controlled Products Regulations and replace them with the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) in the Canada Gazette, Part I. The consultation period ended in September, and final regulations will be published in Canada Gazette, Part II.
Health Canada's goal is to have the updated WHMIS laws in force no later than June 2015, and is working to implement the GHS as soon as possible. "In force" means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and SDSs for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada at that time. A transition period is expected, but the dates have not yet been announced.
Provincial, federal and territorial occupational health and safety WHMIS regulations will also require updating. Employers will need to update their WHMIS training and workplace programs but the timelines and transition periods are still to be announced.
What do I need to know?
After GHS implementation, SDSs and labels for products originating within and outside of Canada will share common elements. This standardization should simplify education and training after the transition period is over. However employees will need training on both systems until the transition is complete. For now, you should know that Health Canada has an administrative policy which allows a properly prepared and formatted GHS Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to be used in Canada at this time. All of the information required by the 9-section Canadian MSDS must be listed on the GHS SDS and all other Canadian requirements for MSDS's (e.g. The SDS must be available in English and French and must not have a preparation date exceeding 3 years.) Keeping up-to-date inventories of all controlled products and the status of the MSDS/SDS will be essential.
At this time, the current WHMIS requirements, as described in the Controlled Products Regulations, for labels on "controlled" or hazardous products in the workplace must continue to be followed. It may, however, be acceptable to have both GHS and WHMIS labelling on the product packaging, as long as:
We are getting to the point where we may start to see things changing quickly. Health Canada offers an email news service where they will announce information about WHMIS. Use the following link to register for this service: hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/occup-travail/whmis-simdut/mail_list-liste_distrubution-eng.php.
More information and resources from CCOHS
Download the free WHMIS After GHS Fact Sheets.
Watch Health Canada's free webinar Canada's Implementation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for Workplace Chemicals.
Take the free WHMIS After GHS: An Introduction e-course.
Still need more help? Contact our confidential Inquiries Service, free to all Canadians, by calling 1-800-668-4284 or using our online contact form.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
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