Written by Simon R. Foxcroft and Sharon G.K. Singh
On April 1, 2021, as part of an ongoing review and revision process, seven amendments to the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia came into force. The Code, and its enabling statute, the Mines Act, are the primary sources for health and safety regulation of mining operations in British Columbia. Among other things, the Code establishes the responsibility of mine managers to actively identify work place hazards, and to mitigate the risk that such hazards pose to workers.
The amendments were recommended by the standing Code Review Committee and enacted under Order in Council No. 27 on January 25, 2021. The changes are directed primarily at aligning the Code with changing federal and provincial standards.This includes changes designed to strengthen worker protection, bolster oversight, and to make sure that health and safety remains a principal concern for all mining operations.The material April revisions implemented in the updated Code are as follows:
- adding reference to cannabis in the impairment provisions to align with federal legalization;
- adding gas detection and blowout prevention measures for exploration drilling operations in coal bearing formations;
- updating Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) provisions to meet current national standards;
- updating requirements to ensure the use of motion restraint and securement mechanisms prior to the commencement of heavy equipment (dump trucks, scrapers, loaders, etc.) inspection and repairs;
- updating clauses related to pressure vessels to ensure they meet current Canadian Standards Association standards;
- updating legislation references in the Code for the Public Health Act (of paramount importance given the role of the Public Health Act in addressing COVID-19); and
- modernizing the requirements for atmospheric detection by the fireboss prior to shift commencement in underground coal mines.
On July 31, 2021, revisions adding avalanche safety requirements, including avalanche risk assessments and avalanche safety program development, will also come into effect.
Mine managers and employers with mining operations in British Columbia should familiarize themselves with the revisions to the Code. Workplace health safety policies and standard operating procedures should be reviewed and modified as necessary to incorporate the new requirements. This exercise should be coupled with work site health and safety training to educate all applicable workers, in particular those with supervisory responsibilities.
Bennett Jones lawyers can advise in both mining law and occupational health and safety law, and our Mining team would be pleased to provide further information and support regarding these recent alterations to the Code.