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6. Special Applications of WHMIS (Continued)

Construction Projects

This section describes the application of WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) to construction projects. Unlike the previous section on labs, there are no requirements in the WHMIS legislation [R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 860] that apply only to construction projects. However, they are still treated separately in this guide because there are differences between construction projects and other workplaces that affect the division of employer responsibilities. Specifically, a construction project may be a multi-employer site. The constructor is an employer, but so is every contractor or sub-contractor associated with a building trade, such as the employer of the electricians, the employer of the painters, etc.

The information in this section has been prepared in consultation with the Ontario Construction Industry's Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee. It is intended to clarify the responsibilities of the constructor, who is the "employer" with respect to the whole project, and the responsibilities of the contractor or sub-contractor who employs a group of tradespeople who may be on site for only part of the duration of the entire project.

What are the responsibilities of the contractor or sub-contractor on a construction project?

  1. To ensure that any controlled product brought on site by the contractor or sub-contractor is labelled.
  2. To maintain and make available to workers, MSDSs for controlled products brought on site by the contractor or sub-contractor.
  3. To give the constructor all MSDSs for controlled products brought on site by the contractor or sub-contractor.
  4. To train own workers about WHMIS, and about the controlled products that they use on site.
  5. To inform other contractors, sub-contractors and workers who may be affected by the controlled products that the contractor or sub-contractor brings on site.
  6. To inform the constructor of WHMIS-related conflicts among contractors or sub-contractors on the project.

Responsibilities 3, 5 and 6 above are not in the WHMIS legislation. They are suggested here as important to the successful implementation of WHMIS on construction projects, and may be considered to fall under the employer's general duty in the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [section 25(2)(h)].

What are the responsibilities of the constructor?

  1. To ensure that all controlled products on the project are labelled.
  2. To maintain and make available to workers, all MSDSs received from contractors and subcontractors at the project.
  3. To train own workers about WHMIS and about the controlled products that the constructor brings on site.
  4. To resolve any WHMIS-related conflicts among contractors and sub-contractors on site.

Responsibility 4 is not in the WHMIS legislation but is suggested as important to the successful implementation of WHMIS on construction projects. It may be considered to fall under the employer's general duty in the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [section 25(2)(h)].

If a construction project is being carried out in an operating workplace (e.g. renovation to an existing plant) what are the responsibilities of the constructor and the client (i.e. the employer at the workplace)?

  1. The client should give the constructor MSDSs for any controlled products in the client's workplace that the constructor's workers may be exposed to.
  2. The constructor should ensure that all controlled products brought into the client's workplace by the constructor are labelled.
  3. The constructor should give the client MSDSs for all controlled products that the constructor brings into the client's workplace.
  4. The constructor must train his/her own workers respecting the controlled products used on the construction project, and the controlled products likely to be encountered in the client's workplace.

Note:

In some cases the constructor and the client may be one and the same.

What training programs on WHMIS are available to people in construction?

The Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO) offers 2 training programs on WHMIS. One is 5-8 hours in duration, and provides basic training for anyone in the construction industry. Wallet cards are issued to those who satisfactorily complete the performance reviews.

The second program is a 3-day workshop intended to provide the participants with a better understanding of the WHMIS program, and the training materials and support systems so that they can, in turn, train others. A certificate and wallet card are provided for successful completion of the workshops.

CSAO also provides educational materials to those who wish to develop or conduct their own training, or to workers who wish to expand their knowledge on an individual basis.

For more information on these WHMIS training programs contact the CSAO (www.csao.org) at 416-674-2726 or 1-800-781-2726.

How does WHMIS apply to construction materials such as sand, gravel or limestone?

The application of WHMIS to materials like sand, gravel and limestone is a special one. These materials meet the definition of a controlled product because of their silica content; however, because of their physical size and shape, they are not necessarily hazardous to worker health. For example, aggregate that is piled on a construction site or used in road building is not likely to endanger worker health or safety. On the other hand, aggregate that is being crushed and sized for use as an abrasive cleaner could endanger worker health because of the dust released during the processing of the aggregate.

Neither the federal nor provincial WHMIS legislation specifically addresses materials such as sand or gravel, which may or may not be hazardous depending upon the circumstances. It is therefore the policy of the regulators that the WHMIS requirements (labels, MSDSs and training) will apply only when such materials are packaged or processed for a specific purpose as described above, and there is a likelihood of endangerment to worker health or safety.

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