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Issued June 18, 2008
Section 22.2 (Application) of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:
(1) This Part applies to any underground working which is not a mine within the meaning of the Mines Act, or the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia, and which a worker will be required or permitted to enter.
(2) Generally, this Part does not apply to horizontal underground workings that are less than 5 m (16 ft) in length or to permanent facilities in their final structural condition as certified by a professional engineer.
In turn, "underground working" is defined in section 22.1 as including:
any adit, tunnel, underground excavation, chamber, caisson, raise, shaft, winze or natural entry
Purpose of guideline
This guideline discusses the circumstances, under section 22.2 of the Regulation, in which an underground working can be considered to be a permanent facility in its final structural condition as certified by a professional engineer.
The guideline also provides information on the application of the Regulation to underground projects that have been completed.
Permanent facilities in their final structural condition
Section 22.2(2) exempts the application of Part 22 to a permanent facility in its final structural condition as certified by a professional engineer. In order for an underground working to be in its final structural condition, it needs to be structurally capable of being used safely for its intended purpose(s). There are several aspects to this exception that need to be considered.
An underground working will not be in its "final condition" until the drilling, blasting, boring, or digging sequence is finished, along with the associated walls, roof, and invert. This will include all structural rock bolts, mesh, straps, steel supports, and shotcrete necessary to support a structure. However, the reference to "permanent facility in its final structural condition" has a somewhat broader meaning than the more limited reference to "final condition."
Hazards to workers in underground workings include aspects such as atmosphere, lighting, and potential for fire. If the project involves the replacement of temporary ventilation and lighting systems by permanent systems, the project will not be considered to be in final structural condition or structurally complete until that is done. The potential for fire is related in part to the use of heavy equipment involved in excavation, but which may also be used in other project work such as completion of an underground road or rail bed. Completion of such work, where applicable as part of the project, will typically be necessary before the facility is considered to be structurally complete. An underground project may also include other elements such as transitions, underground control gates, and control stations.
In some cases, an underground working may involve a series of tunnels or other excavations. Steps to complete the project may include sealing one or more of these areas by means such as walls, plugs, or backfill, and installation of drainage systems within the underground working. These steps will need to be completed before an underground working can be considered to be in its final structural condition.
As required by section 22.2(2), a professional engineer must certify that the facility is in its final structural condition. A certificate that addresses only part of the facility is not a sufficient basis for applying the exception.
Application of the Regulation to an underground project that has been completed
If an underground working has been completed under the terms of section 22.2(2), Part 22 no longer applies, but the other requirements of the Regulation remain in effect to address any subsequent work that may be done at the site.
Examples of such work include operation of underground control devices, use of worker transport systems, and equipment or facility inspections, maintenance, and repair.
Issued April 27, 2010
Section 22.12 of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:
(1) The employer must ensure that every worker involved in the active excavation or rehabilitation of an underground working is under the direct supervision of the holder of an underground excavation supervisor certificate acceptable to the Board.
(2) Workers not involved in the active excavation or rehabilitation of an underground working must be under the direction of a supervisor who holds an underground supervisor certificate.
Section 22.1 of the Regulation states, in part:
"underground working" includes any adit, tunnel, underground excavation, chamber, caisson, raise, winze or natural entry.
Section 117 of the Workers Compensation Act ("Act") states:
(1) Every supervisor must
(a) ensure the health and safety of all workers under the direct supervision of the supervisor,
(b) be knowledgeable about this Part and those regulations applicable to the work being supervised, and
(c) comply with this Part, the regulations and any applicable orders.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), a supervisor must
(a) ensure that the workers under his or her direct supervision
(i) are made aware of all known or reasonably foreseeable health or safety hazards in the area where they work, and
(ii) comply with this Part, the regulations and any applicable orders,
(b) consult and cooperate with the joint committee or worker health and safety representative for the workplace, and
(c) cooperate with the Board, officers of the Board and any other person carrying out a duty under this Part or the regulations.
Purpose of guideline
The purpose of this guideline is to provide guidance on underground excavation certificates and underground certificates acceptable to WorkSafeBC, and to describe the process to follow if no certificate is available.
Regulation subsection 22.12(1) specifies that, for work involving excavation or rehabilitation of an underground working, the supervisor must hold an underground excavation supervisor certificate acceptable to WorkSafeBC.
For gassy underground workings (as defined in Regulation section 22.1), the underground coal mine fireboss certificate issued under the Mines Act is an acceptable certificate under subsection 22.12(1). For non-gassy underground workings, the underground shiftboss certificate issued under the Mines Act is an acceptable certificate under subsection 22.12(1).
The requirements and process for a supervisor's certification under the Mines Act is described in Part 1 of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia 2008. The supervisor must also have adequate knowledge of the applicable Regulation requirements.
Regulation subsection 22.12(2) specifies that, for work not involving active excavation or rehabilitation of an underground working (e.g., trades such as carpenters, mechanical trades, electricians, etc.), the workers must work under the supervision of a supervisor who holds an underground supervisor certificate. There is no directly applicable certificate available in B.C. at this time and therefore, unless the supervisor holds a certificate described in the previous paragraph, a variance to this subsection will be necessary.
When a variance is required
Certification under the Mines Act is the only acceptable supervisor's certification for underground workings. If a worker has an underground supervisor's certificate obtained from another jurisdiction, the employer can apply to the WorkSafeBC Regulatory Practices Dept. to accept this certificate.
It may not be practicable for an employer responsible for work in an underground working to ensure that the supervisor has an underground supervisor's certificate issued under the Mines Act (e.g., an underground tunnel being built without use of blasting materials) or other jurisdictions. For these cases, an employer can apply to the Regulatory Practices Dept. for a variance to this requirement. An explanation of the variance process is available on the WorkSafeBC website at http://www2.worksafebc.com/Topics/VariancesRegulation/Home.asp.
A variance application to the Regulatory Practices Dept. for subsection 22.12(1) should include