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Ministry issues 6500 orders during fall prevention blitz

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March 2, 2015 by STAFF REPORT

Lack of PPE and no guardrails topped the list of violations during recent fall prevention blitz by Ontario Ministry of Labour
Lack of PPE and no guardrails topped the list of violations during recent fall prevention blitz by Ontario Ministry of Labour

Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors issued 584 stop work orders along with nearly 6500 general orders during a summer blitz looking for fall hazards on ICI construction sites across the province.

“Falls are the number one cause of critical injuries and deaths of workers at construction sites in Ontario,” the ministry says in a recent report summarizing the blitz results.

The top three most commonly issued orders were for violations involving:

      • failure to use personal protective equipment
      • failure to erect guardrails
      • failure to use other forms of fall protection when guardrails were not reasonably possible

Inspectors checked for hazards involving a broad range of falls such as from ladders elevating work platforms, suspended access equipment and structures as well as 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 pre-announced 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

The blitz responds to the Chief Prevention Officer’s call to action for falls prevention and supports the integrated action plan to Prevent Falls from Heights: a collaborative plan of action between the ministry and its partners in occupational health and safety.

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.

Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

Employer 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. Inspectors also checked that employers were providing appropriate access to and egress from work areas and ensuring ladder safety.

Safe work practices: Inspectors checked that employers had safe work practices, including assessing fall hazards risks and responding immediately to any hazards. They also checked for policies and procedures that ensure an investigation takes place into all fall-related incidents. As well, they checked for programs that outline 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 were adequately using ladders, stands and platforms. They also checked that the ladders, stands and platforms were properly assessed for hazards, properly designed, 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.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety devices: Inspectors checked that fall protection equipment was being properly selected, used and maintained for tasks. They 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.

Falls from heights: Inspectors checked that guardrails, travel restraint or fall arrest equipment was being used for work on platforms, raised floors, mezzanines, balconies or other work at heights. They checked that appropriate methods for controlling hazards that could lead to falls were included in constructor and employer health and safety policies and programs, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment, adequate housekeeping, and the use of appropriate administrative controls.

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