The mining sector has many vulnerabilities to workplace injury and accidents. Mining injuries can lead to short-term disability and long-term disability, including wrongful death. It is important to seek legal advice if you or a loved one have a mining injury, are a victim of a mining accident, or are dealing with a mining insurance claim. TSF Law is well versed in personal injury law, disability claims, and denied insurance claims. We have successfully represented victims of the mining industry, and are proud to support Canadian miners with our high quality legal services.
In this article we will talk about common mining injury and accident scenarios, the governing laws surrounding workplace health and safety in mining (specifically for Ontario miners), and provide insight on when and how someone should seek legal council when dealing with a mining injury.
Most Common Mining Injuries:
Mining requires a lot of physical labour and mental adjustment to unassuming work environments with low visibility, confined spaces, and toxic exposure. Statistics from 2017 have shown that the most common mining injuries are acquired from bodily reactions and exertion. This can be a due to:
- excessive physical effort and overexertion (lifting, pulling, pushing, carrying or turning objects)
- repetitive motion that results in stress or strain on the body (bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting, slipping, tripping)
- assuming unnatural positions for long periods of time (such as for the accommodation of low ceiling height)
- free bodily motion that results in stress or strain on the body
- vehicle accidents, falling rocks and machinery crushing which lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities every year
When someone encounters over stress and exertion of their body, they can be left with long-term pains, aches, immobility and loss of feeling in certain parts of their body. These types of injuries can greatly impact one’s life and employment duties, thus causing them to rely on things such as medical devices, personal support workers, and consistent therapy and treatment (including surgery) in order to manage their injury. Dealing with chronic pain and immobility can have a negative rippling effect on one’s mental health and stability as well. Dealing with social isolation and a new inability to engage in such things as hobbies and family functions can greatly impact one’s mood and joys in life.
Most Common Mining Illnesses & Occupational Diseases
Exposure to hazardous gases and dust can lead to immediate (acute) and long-term health effects that can have detrimental effects. Before any work is carried out by miners, it is the employers duty to evaluate the risk of exposure before any work is performed.
Examples of occupational disease in mining, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, include:
- asbestosis, mesothelioma
- cancer (especially lung cancer, nasal cancer, and gastro-intestinal cancer)
- chronic obstructive lung disease (sulfur dioxide)
- skin diseases
Most Common Accident Occurrences
- Methane & Coal Dust Explosions: Accidents most often occur due to mechanical errors from the improper use or malfunctioning mining equipment or explosives. When this occurs underground, methane and consecutive coal dust explosions can occur. These types of incidents account for some of the most catastrophic mining accidents in the world.
- Hazardous Blasting : Blasting refers to the use of explosives in order to break away rock and surfaces. The improper use of explosives can lead to scenarios of:
- Fly Rocks: rocks that fly through the air and can potentially hit workers who are too close to the blast, or were in areas that were not initially assumed to be in the blast’s range of danger.
Premature Blasts: the detonation of an explosive earlier than intended. This incident often occurs due to things such as a faulty fuse, accidental percussion, degenerated explosives, or negligence.
Misfires: the complete or partial failure of an explosives blasting charge. This can occur when a blasting charge is triggered by nearby drilling or digging machines.
Mine-Induced Seismicity: earthquake-like events that collapse mines. This is more prone to happening in seismic hazardous areas in Canada. In Ontario, the seismic hazards are greatest in North Eastern Ontario, in and around the North Bay and Ottawa areas.
Other Common events resulting in a mining injury or illness:
- struck by an object
- caught in, crushed, or compressed by equipment, objects, or collapsing material
- abraded by friction or pressure
- falls or jumps to lower levels
- falls on same level
- highway accidents and non-highway accidents (coal truck accidents)
- contact with extreme temperatures
- exposure to air pressure changes
- exposure to harmful, noxious or allergenic substances (ex. methane, coal dust)
- exposure to radiation
- explosions / blasting accidents
- traumatic events
- mining collapse (including ceiling collapse, roof collapse, coal stockpile collapse etc.)
- longwall accidents
- violation of mining laws and labour standards resulting in a hazardous workplace
Types of Mining Injuries
In all of these scenarios, one can be seriously injured or acquire diseases leading to long-term disability and at times, even death. Because of regular exposure to airborne dust and hazards, minors are at an increased risk for respiratory diseases such as pneumoconioses, which include coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (commonly refereed to as black lung), and silicosis. Minors are also susceptible to:
- burn injuries (including chemical burns)
- crush injuries
- head injuries
- spinal cord injuries
- neck injuries
- whole-body vibration
- musculoskeletal disorders
- reproductive damage
- vision impairment
- digestive damage
- cardiovascular changes and damage
- head stroke
- respiratory distress
- systemic poisoning
- wrongful death
- Metal mines (such as for nickel, copper, cobalt, gold and silver) account for the majority of mines found in Ontario
Last year, there were around 21,500 full-time employees in the Ontario mining sector that experienced a 3.6% increase in injuries from the previous year
Top reasons for lost-time injury or illness experienced by Ontario’s mining sector include:
Bodily Reactions/Exertions: which includes exerted physical efforts, and excessive strain and stress on the body that effects bodily motion. This is often due to repetitive movements and assuming unnatural positions (such as bending to accommodate low ceilings)
Harm from Objects or Equipment: being struck by objects; caught in or crushed or compressed by equipment, objects or collapsing materials; abraded by friction or pressure
- Common Occupational Diseases associated with Mining, that result in short-term disability claims and long-term disability claims include:
- Noise-induced hearing loss (from machinery and use of explosives)
- Hand-arm vibration syndrome (from machinery, tools and equipment)
- Injury and poisoning (including burns, heat exhaustion, toxic effects of gasses or acids, bee and wasp stings)
- Lung cancer is commonly acquired by miners involved in gold mining and the use of coke ovens
Nasal cancer is common amongst nickel miners
Gastro-intestinal cancer is common amongst all miners, including metal, diamond, salt, nickel, copper etc.
Mining Laws & Regulations
The Canadian Labour Code applies to all mining sectors found within the provinces and territories of Canada. Health and safety of employees is the responsibility of the employer. This includes proper safety standards and regulations for:
- tools (including hand held tools, mechanic tools)
- machinery (including conveyors, drills and vehicles)
- equipment (such as oxygen tanks, welding equipment and explosives)
- uniforms and work site safety wear (such as goggles, gloves, gas masks etc.)
- substance use (such as screening for and/or resources for those suffering from substance abuse)
Full law and regulation compliance information for Ontario can be found here:
- Ontrio Ministry of Labour
- Occupation Health and Safety Act Guide
- Regulations for Mines & Mining Plants
- Workplace Safety North
Employers in Ontario, in accordance with the Ministry of Labour, must complete regular workplace audits to identify harmful substances, as per the Designated Substances Regulations, and the Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents Regulations.
All employers must have a control program, including medical surveillance, based on their workplace health and safety assessments. All workers must be equipped with the proper information and instructions, provided by their employer, for hazards associated with occupational disease and injuries.
Employers should encourage workers to report to supervisors any suspected exposures to hazards as soon as possible. Employers must properly identify and assess the risk of job-specific tasks that may expose workers to any of the following, in both underground and surface mines:
- physical harm
- chemical exposure
- biological exposure
- risk of disease
It is the employers duty to establish controls in order to eliminate or reduce an employee’s exposure to such hazards, and to ensure that proper measures are made to adequately protect workers from such exposures.
Miner’s & Other Employee Duties
All workers must use and operate equipment in a safe manner; this includes refraining from substance use when on the job. If any defects in equipment are noticed by an employee, it should be reported to their supervisor or employer as soon as possible. Just like the employer and all supervisors, all employees much work in compliance and report any violations of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).
It is the mining supervisor’s responsibility ensure that any equipment, protective devices, uniforms and any other clothing required by the employer is properly used and worn by the workers. If the supervisor is aware of any potential or actual health and safety dangers, they must advise all workers of their potential and/or actual risk. It is the supervisor’s duty to take every precaution reasonable for the protection of workers.
Negligence by the employer, supervisors or any fellow employees that result in miner’s injury is negligence and against the law.
Contacting a Toronto Disability Lawyer
TSF has successfully represented many clients, across Ontario, who:
- are victims of a mining accident
- have acquired a mining injury
- are suffering from a disease or illness as a result of a mining workplace
- are facing a denied insurance claim (for medical benefits, disability benefits, long-term disability, short-term disability)
- are up against an insurance companies internal appeal relating to a mining insurance claim
Our firm has experience in getting our clients the proper benefits and sums of money they are entitled to. If you believe that any injury or accident you have been involved in is a result of another person’s negligence, or a workplace hazard that came about as a result of an employer or supervisor’s non-compliance with the health and safety laws and regulations in place, we urge you to contact our firm as soon as possible. We have the best personal-injury lawyers and disability claim lawyers here in Ontario, offering our services across Canada. We understand the sensitivity and urgency to deal with these cases and offer our clients superior results.
Contact us today for a free consultations over the phone or in person; TSF Law promises to always be there for you.