Safety Campaign Targets Construction Workers And Supervisors
Although the lost-time injury rate of Ontario's construction workers is one of the lowest in Canada - 1.37 per 100 workers - the province is taking action to improve worker safety by increasing enforcement of regulations and enhancing awareness of safety measures, including those related to fall prevention.
An awareness campaign will run during July and August in major Ontario cities where summer construction activity in the area is at its highest (Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton). Newspaper advertising will include construction safety messages in the key ethnic languages spoken in Ontario's construction sector - English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian and Chinese. Tip sheets will be available in these languages for workers and supervisors and will appear on the ministry's website www.ontario.ca/ConstructionSafety.
On the website, viewers can see a range of information about safe work practices, including a video about fall hazards on residential construction projects, and soon, a new one about suspended platforms. These can also be seen on YouTube and downloaded for safety training sessions and meetings.
Between 2005 and 2009, almost 40 per cent of workers who died in work-related incidents were construction workers. Ninety-seven workers died in construction-related incidents, and 999 workers were seriously injured.
New safety measures
The province is implementing new measures to improve safety on construction sites, including:
- Strong enforcement measures that target repeat offenders and shut down construction projects when workers' lives are in danger
- Increased focus on training and worker supervision during inspections
- A public campaign with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (including the Construction Safety Association of Ontario) to increase awareness of construction site hazards and appropriate safety measures (information is being provided in a wide range of languages in addition to English and French)
- Launching a toll-free telephone line (1-877-202-0008) for workers and the general public to report worksite practices and conditions that appear unsafe.
Many fall-prevention violations
During a three-month enforcement blitz (ending in April this year) of more than 2,800 construction sites across Ontario, Ministry of Labour inspectors found many violations related to missing or inappropriate use of guardrails, scaffolding and fall protection systems. The heightened enforcement was in response to a recent spate of fall-related injuries and deaths of construction workers, including four deaths and a severe injury arising from the collapse of a swing-stage in December 2009.
"Hierarchy" of fall protection
As they continue with their heightened enforcement of construction safety regulations, ministry inspectors are stressing a "hierarchy of fall protection": guardrails first, then travel restraint (e.g., tethers) and -- only as a last resort, fall arrest systems. During an 11-month heightened enforcement campaign that ended in March this year, inspectors found a wide range of safety problems related to the misuse of ladders, including fall and electric shock hazards and ergonomic issues.
As the ministry acquires knowledge of potential fall hazards, it issues warnings to employers and others. In May, for example, the ministry issued an alert concerning frontal fixed-rail ladder fall protection systems that may not adequately protect workers. And in June, the ministry updated its suspended platform hazard alert, advising on best practices for design, maintenance and repair.
In September, the ministry plans to begin a pilot program to reduce underground economic activity in Ontario's construction sector. The goal is to improve compliance with requirements for revenue reporting, notification requirements, worker training, and workplace health and safety. The ministry works with Tarion Warranty Corporation, the regulator of the new home building industry in Ontario, to locate unregistered homebuilders.
Beginning in the spring of 2011, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and some municipalities (Ottawa, London, Markham) will begin working with the Ministry of Labour to provide building permit information to facilitate inspection of construction worksites.
Each year, after consulting with stakeholders, the ministry publishes "sector plans" on its website. These plans describe safety concerns and related enforcement activities.
Sector- and hazard-specific inspection blitzes are an important feature of the ministry's Safe At Work Ontario strategy to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities. Since April 2007, the province's team of more than 430 safety inspectors has made nearly 285,000 visits to workplaces, of which about 200,000 were proactive (i.e., visits not in response to workplace injuries). They issued more than 470,000 compliance orders.
Panel to review workplace safety regulations, training
An expert panel, led by former Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Minister of Labour Tony Dean, will make recommendations to the minister before the end of the year on a wide range of workplace safety issues. The panel is looking at the roles of all stakeholders in a workplace health and safety system and is considering how these stakeholders can best work together to ensure that workplaces are safe.