COVID-19: Interim Recommendations on Preventive Measures for the Mining Industry
Any resumption of non-essential services must be carried out in such a way as to control the transmission of COVID-19. It is of paramount importance to avoid a significant increase in the number of people infected, hospitalized or in intensive care, and of deaths.
A number of conditions must be respected to ensure the control of COVID-19 in Québec. Failure to comply with these conditions could lead to a significant increase in the number of cases and thus potentially to reconsideration of the strategy for reopening workplaces (number and type of workplaces, required distancing and protection measures) aimed at re-establishing an equilibrium and ensuring the sustainability of the health care system. These conditions are set out here: Conditions necessary for the maintenance of essential services and the gradual opening of other workplaces (in French only).
The preventive measures recommended by the government for the general population and the basic recommendations for all workplaces also apply in the mining sector, unless more restrictive measures are specified.
Special attention must be given to pregnant workers and workers with specific health conditions. Please refer to the following recommendations:
- https://www.inspq.qc.ca/publications/2914-protection-travailleurs-immonudeprimes-covid19 (in French only)
- https://www.inspq.qc.ca/sites/default/files/publications/2967_protection_travailleurs_sante_maladies_chroniques.pdf (in French only)
Particularities of work in the mining industry during a Coronavirus pandemic
One of the main challenges associated with the resumption of mining operations is that many companies employ outside workers (from outside the city, the region and even the country). Some companies use fly in/fly out or drive in/drive out or trains to bring outside workers to the workplace. It should also be noted that a number of mining operations are located in regions that are under closure (e.g. Abitibi, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec).
Outside workers are usually housed in facilities with common areas (eating areas, rest areas, washroom facilities and room sharing). These conditions can promote the transmission of viruses.
Prolonged interactions (during work activities, in accommodations) between workers from different regions of Québec, where the rate of transmission can vary (from low to high), are conducive to outbreaks in the workplace and possibly also in the workers' community of origin, taking into consideration the incubation period, pre-symptomatic transmission and cases of asymptomatic transmission.
Also, the fact that the majority of mining operations are located in remote or isolated areas should be considered. The ability of such communities to test for COVID-19, to manage COVID-19 cases that would require care, to adhere to isolation guidelines, and to evacuate people when necessary may be problematic.
For information about the impact on the regional community or communities of reopening a workplace, please refer to the public health authority of that region.