It’s fair to say that the construction industry suffers a disproportionate share of occupational fatalities and lost-time injuries. While falls are a leading cause of worker injuries and deaths, nearly all of these incidents are preventable.
From May 16 to July 15, 2016, the Ministry of Labour targeted potential fall hazards during a safety blitz at hundreds of workplaces across province.
In all, construction inspectors conducted 2,316 field visits to 1,994 workplaces and issued 5,542 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. This included 465 stop work orders.
Of the 465 stop work orders, 23.5% (1,298) were the result of falls from heights hazards, 15% (828) were attributed to other personal protective equipment non-compliance, while 4% (236) had to do with failure to prepare for an emergency or rescue of a worker.
Nearly 20% (1,022 of the 5,542) of the issued orders were the result of workers not wearing headwear and missing fall protection. On average, 2.78 orders were issued per workplace visited. Some of the workplaces were visited several times with an average of 2.39 orders issued per field visit.
According the Ministry of Labour, health and safety inspectors visited a variety of construction projects, including low-rise and high-rise construction and renovation, and high-rise “forming” (structures into which concrete is poured). Inspectors focused on whether workers had received training for working at heights; proper fall protection systems and equipment; and whether guardrails were installed when needed. They also inspected scaffolding systems for compliance; whether surface openings were adequately covered; and verifying that skylight hazards where assessed and workers were protected.
The results indicate falls hazards continue to be a key concern at construction projects, and that all workplace parties need to improve onsite safety and their understanding of their duties and responsibilities under the OHSA.
Workers can be at an increased risk of falls due to:
- lack of training on identifying fall hazards
- inadequate training for the task
- lack of proper equipment
- inadequate barricades to prevent falls
- poorly maintained equipment
- improper access to elevated work areas
Ministry inspectors also issued 627 tickets and 138 summonses during the blitz. Under Ontario’s Provincial Offences Act, ministry inspectors have the authority to issue a ticket or summons for minor OHSA violations, and may also initiate prosecutions for certain violations.
Currently, the maximum fine resulting from a ticket or summons is $1,000, although most violations of this nature are subject to a set fine, which generally do not exceed $300. A successful prosecution, though, may result in more severe penalties. Individuals may be fined up to $25,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months, while corporations may be fined up to $500,000 on each count.
– with files from the Ministry of Labour