Labour ministry's report on access equipment blitz

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released the results of its inspection blitz on access equipment and fall protection safety at construction sites. According to results, close to 3,000 orders were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including more than 200 stop-work orders.
Workers can suffer serious injuries and death when access equipment is improperly used. Lack of training and non-compliance with manufacturer's instructions are often the cause of these incidents, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

From August 1 to August 31, 2011, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz of hazards involving all types of access equipment at Ontario constructions sites. Inspectors checked on compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The blitz focused on the appropriate selection of access equipment and its safe and proper use. This included an equipment audit.

The goals were to:
  • raise awareness of access equipment hazards
  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards
  • address and remedy non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • deter non-compliant employers
  • enhance health and safety partnerships, and
  • promote improved health and safety for workers using access equipment.
Between 2003 and 2008, more than one-third of fatal falls involving construction workers involved access equipment. In total, 61 construction workers died from falls at construction sites. Of those, 24 fatalities involved access equipment.

On December 24, 2009, four workers fell 13 storeys to their deaths when a swing-stage came apart at a Toronto construction site. A fifth worker survived the fall. This incident prompted a review of Ontario's occupational health and safety system which led to recommendations for major changes that are currently being implemented by the ministry.

In August 2011, ministry inspectors conducted 998 visits to 903 workplaces and issued 2,955 orders under the OHSA, including 243 stop-work orders.

More than 16 per cent of the orders were for contraventions related to the unsafe use of access equipment.

The most commonly issued orders were for lack of adequate supervision and training, and inadequate implementation of a well functioning internal responsibility system (IRS).

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 Ontario labour ministry's website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency of future inspections to particular types of workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for workplace compliance assistance and training.

The results of the ministry's blitz on access equipment indicate that safe use of access equipment and fall protection continue to be the two major health and safety concerns related to access equipment on construction projects. Inspectors also noted a lack of compliance with personal protective equipment and housekeeping requirements.

These findings demonstrate a need for increased worker supervision and a better understanding of legislative knowledge among supervisors. The absence of basic safety-related personal protective equipment also demonstrates a need for increased importance to be placed on fundamental safety practices on construction projects. The relatively high percentage of orders related to emergency procedures (seventh on the list of most issued orders) is an indicator that workers are not exercising their OHSA rights to know, participate and refuse unsafe work.

There is a need for increased engagement in health and safety practices among all workplace parties, the ministry said in a statement. Employers should focus on training, self-compliance, personal protective equipment, fall protection, utilizing tools and equipment as per manufacturers' instructions, hazard assessments and emergency procedures.

The results of this blitz confirm a continued need for training, education and enforcement activities across all construction sectors. The ministry said it will continue to focus on:
  •  compliance with the administrative responsibilities of workplace parties under the OHSA and its regulations; and
  •  injury and illness performance in the construction industry, including major hazards and key issues identified during the blitz.
Find more details about the results of the inspection blitz on access equipment on the Ministry of Labour's website.

The Ministry of Labour also offers a downloadable access equipment safety poster available on its website.