Blitz To Focus On Electrical Hazards At Construction Sites
Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors will check for hazards involving work on or near electrical equipment and conductors at construction sites during an enforcement blitz in October 2009.
This increased, targeted enforcement is part of the province's Safe At Work Ontario strategy. During a similar blitz in July last year, inspectors issued 279 orders pertaining to specific electrical hazards at construction sites. Fifty of these related to working too close to overhead power lines; 31 related to working on live electrical equipment.
Inspectors will check that only authorized workers on projects are carrying out electrical work. They will take enforcement action as appropriate to any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.
In 2005, the government strengthened the sections of regulations for construction projects (O. Reg. 213/91) related to electrical safety.
Electrical hazards feature prominently in the ministry's schedule of workplace inspection blitzes. A blitz in November last year focused on electrical hazards at industrial workplaces. A blitz in September this year focused on electrical hazards in mining operations.
Ministry data show that workers responsible for installing or maintaining electrical equipment often do not turn off the power supply. Working on live, energized electrical equipment is a major safety hazard. Metal ladders, raised dump-truck bodies and crane booms have been implicated in a number of electricity-related injuries at construction sites.
There have been more than 70 electricity-related fatalities in all sectors in the last decade. Of those, about half occurred while workers were working near exposed electrical equipment.
Workers also continue to suffer arc-flash burns. In 2008, these were responsible for seven of 17 critical -- and 11 of 83 non-critical -- electricity-related injuries.
For each contravention, a court can impose a fine of up to $500,000 against a corporation convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Individuals can face a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
Inspectors will focus specifically on construction operations:
- identified as being high-priority because of possible electrical hazards
- known to have highly hazardous processes and equipment
- where complaints have been received, and
- with a history of non-compliance.
The blitz will focus on three imperatives:
- workers may handle live, energized equipment only when permitted by regulation to do so
- workers must follow appropriate electrical lockout procedures, and
- employers must analyze job hazards and tasks to determine the adequacy of precautions against electrical shock and burns.
Safe At Work Ontario
Hazard-specific inspection blitzes are an important feature of Ontario's Safe At Work strategy. There is no acceptable rate of injury in Ontario workplaces.
That's why Safe At Work Ontario seeks to:
- improve workplace health and safety culture
- reduce workplace injuries and illness
- reduce the burden on the health care system
- avoid costs for employers and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and
- provide a level playing field for compliant companies.