Creation of an Ontario mining exposure database

Status: in progress

Purpose:

In order to better understand the potential risks to workers in the mining industry and to inform prevention activities, the OCRC is creating a database of exposure measurements collected in mines in Ontario. The objective is to create a database that will serve as a valuable tool for surveillance and prevention in the Ontario mining industry. After creating the database, the data will be used to:
• Examine trends in mining exposures over time
• Evaluate the effect of historical interventions, such as regulation or technological change, on exposure levels
• Examine differences in exposure related to mine type and location
• Examine changes in exposure over the lifecycle of mines

Background:

In 2011, there were 38 mines operating in Ontario with over 18,000 people employed in mining operations. Development in Northern Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” will result in significant mining activities for many years to come. Workers in the mining industry may be exposed to carcinogens, including radon, crystalline silica, diesel engine exhaust, arsenic, nickel, and chromium. Many of these exposures can also negatively impact the respiratory health of workers. Despite this, there is currently no centralized or accessible database of exposure measurements from mines in Ontario, and therefore no easy way to track exposures across the mining sector. Records of exposure measurements are often stored in paper form, and may be subject to damage or loss. Digitalizing these records in an electronic database provides long-term data security and allows for the identification of exposure trends over time and across Ontario.

Methods:

Data from the Ministry of Labour, research organizations, health and safety associations, and mining companies has been identified across Ontario. The OCRC enters into a legally binding data sharing agreement with each organization that agrees to submit their data for entry into the database.  Hard copies of the exposure data are transported to the OCRC office for thorough review, entry in the database and subsequent analysis.

Implications:

The database will increase our understanding of exposures in the mining industry and help target prevention efforts where they will have the greatest impact on workers’ health. Examining exposures over a mine’s lifecycle may increase our understanding of the key points in time at which to intervene to reduce exposures.  Additional future applications of the database include targeting high risk worker groups for screening, designing interventions to minimize exposures that will have the biggest impact on workers’ health, and improving research methods for assessing exposures as part of ongoing cohort studies of mining-related disease.

Progress:

In the first years of this project, OCRC worked closely with the Ontario Ministry of Labour and other organizations, including Workplace Safety North (WSN) and Laurentian University, to locate exposure data. Currently, entry of this data is nearing completion and analyses of the database are underway. Further data sources are being investigated.

Funding:

  • In the 2012 Bridging the Gap competition, the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) was awarded funding to assess the feasibility of creating the database. Funding for completion of the full database has been received from the Ontario Ministry of Labour:
    Demers PA, Arrandale VH, Lightfoot NE, Genesove LJ. Creation of the Ontario Mining Exposure Database. 2014-2015.
  • Funding for analysis of the database has also been awarded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour:
    Demers PA, Arrandale VH, Lightfoot NE. Occupational Exposure Surveillance in the Ontario Mining Industry. 2015-2017.

Investigators:

Paul A Demers (Occupational Cancer Research Centre and Cancer Care Ontario)
Nancy E Lightfoot (Laurentian University)
Leon J Genesove (Ontario Ministry of Labour)
Victoria H Arrandale (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Kate Jardine (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Nicola Blagrove (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Connie Fernandes (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)