Falls are one of the leading causes of critical injuries and deaths of workers at construction sites in Ontario.
In September and October 2013, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz at construction sites. Inspectors checked for hazards, including those that could lead to falls from one level to another. They checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.
The goal of the blitz was to:
- raise awareness of hazards involving falls hazards at construction projects
- increase worksite compliance with the law
- prevent injuries that could arise from unsafe work practices
During September and October of 2013, ministry inspectors conducted 1,280 visits to 1,082 workplaces and issued 3,832 orders under the OHSA, including 342 stop work orders.
The top three most commonly issued orders were:
- personal protective equipment (hard hats and safety shoes)
- scaffolding and other work platforms
Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance, although individual workplaces are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry’s website. The blitzes raise awareness of workplace hazards and are intended to promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.
Inspectors’ findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and health and safety-related training.
The scope of the campaign was comprehensive and included all aspects of fall protection methods to eliminate falls hazards at Ontario construction projects.
Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:
Workplace Parties’ Duties: Inspectors checked that employers had policies and programs in place to protect workers from falls hazards as well as emergency procedures if a fall took place at a construction project.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Safety Devices: Inspectors checked that workers were wearing proper fall protection equipment such as fall arrest or travel restraint equipment and ensured that proper anchor points were utilized. The inspectors also checked on the availability, adequacy and condition of this equipment.
Worker Training: Inspectors checked that workers were properly trained and supervised to prevent injuries and deaths from falls hazards. They also checked that workers were aware of their right to refuse unsafe work.
Controlling Hazards: Inspectors checked that appropriate methods for controlling hazards were included in constructor/employer health and safety policies and programs. Some methods for controlling hazards include engineering and administrative controls, installation of guardrails or adequate floor covers, and use of bump lines when inspecting projects that involve built-up roofing operations.
Employer Duties: Inspectors checked that employers had policies and programs in place to protect workers from fall hazards. This included protecting workers from falls from heights at the workplace. Inspectors also checked that employers were providing appropriate access and egress to work areas and ensuring ladder safety. They also checked that employers had emergency rescue procedures for workers who fell or whose fall arrest equipment was activated.
Safe Work Practices: Inspectors checked that employers had safe work practices, including assessing fall hazard risks and responding immediately to any hazards. They also checked for policies and procedures that ensured an investigation took place into all fall-related incidents. In addition, they checked for policies that outlined the roles of workplace parties for ensuring good “housekeeping” practices to keep workplaces free of falls hazards.
Falls from Ladders, Mobile Stands and Platforms: Inspectors checked that workers worked in a safe manner on ladders, stands and platforms. They also checked that the ladders, stands and platforms were properly assessed for hazards, were properly designed, properly built and maintained, and placed on firm footing.
Guardrails and Guarded Openings: Inspectors checked that guardrails were in place and that floor openings, work surfaces or walls of buildings or other structures, were covered, as required.
Falls from Heights: Inspectors checked that fall arrest equipment and/or guardrails or other safety equipment was being used for work on platforms, raised floors, mezzanines, balconies or other work at heights. Ministry inspectors checked that appropriate methods for controlling hazards that could lead to falls were included in constructor and employer health and safety policies and programs. Some methods for controlling hazards leading to falls include engineering controls and personal protective equipment, housekeeping, and the use of appropriate and adequate administrative controls.