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Blitz Results: Preventing Falls at Industrial Workplaces

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: October 2010
  • Content last reviewed: October 2010

Note: Although workplace inspection blitzes by the ministry are announced to the appropriate sectors in advance, individual workplaces receive no prior warning.

During May 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) conducted a workplace health and safety inspection blitz that focused mainly on falls from heights at mostly non-construction workplaces, including:

  • Retailers
  • Wood and metal fabrication enterprises
  • Wholesalers
  • Vehicle sales and service outlets
  • Restaurants, and
  • Tourism, hospitality and recreation providers.

According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, since 2003, falls have continued to represent more than 17 per cent of lost-time injury claims (source: WSIB Statistical Supplement to the Annual Report, 2008).

Report summary

  • During this province-wide workplace safety blitz, inspectors made 1,506 workplace visits and issued 4,208 orders, including 121 stop-work orders.
  • As well, inspectors issued 4 tickets for contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
  • About a third of all orders issued during the blitz pertained to orders issued to the employer for duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 25.[ * ]

[ * ] Duties of employers

25. (1) An employer shall ensure that,
(a) the equipment, materials and protective devices as prescribed are provided;
(b) the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition;
(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace;
(d) the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are used s prescribed; and<
(e) a floor, roof, wall, pillar, support or other part of a workplace is capable of supporting all loads to which it may be subjected without causing the materials therein to be stressed beyond the allowable unit stresses established under the Building Code Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1, s. 25 (1).

Full report

Blitz activity

During the falls prevention blitz, inspectors issued orders at nearly double the typical rate (1.7 times) for the industrial sector health and safety enforcement program. The ratio of stop-work orders to all orders increased by almost a third (1.3).

Industrial sector falls prevention blitz activity during May 2010, and total industrial sector inspection activity April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2010
  Industrial sector falls prevention blitz activity during May 2010 Total industrial sector inspection activity April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2010
Workplace visits to all sub-sectors 1,506 11,123
Orders (all types)[ * ] 4,208 18,003
Stop-work orders 121 634
Order per workplace visit 2.8 1.6
Stop-work orders per workplace visit 0.08 0.06
Tickets issued 4 14

[ * ]Including stop-work orders.

About a third of all orders issued during the blitz pertained to orders issued to the employer for duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 25. And about a quarter of these were issued under Section 25 (2)(h), the general duty clause of the OHSA (“... an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker”).

Equipment maintenance

Section 25(1)(b) — “An employer shall ensure that the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition — represented nearly 8 per cent of all orders and related directly to physical workplace hazards.

Worker participation

Orders for worker participation under OHSA Section 8 (Health and Safety Representative) and Section 9 (Joint Health and Safety Committees) comprised about 13 per cent of orders.

Same-level/low-level falls

The Premises Section of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments (11-20) which represented approximately 11 per cent of the total number of orders.

Guardrails

Guardrail-related orders under the Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Sections 13 and 14, represented approximately 3.5 per cent of orders.

Material handling

Material handling orders issued under Section 45 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments represented approximately three per cent of orders, indicating that a high percentage of falls are related to the way in which workers are handling and moving various types of material.

Ladders

The 96 orders issued with respect to the ladder Section 73 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments represented approximately 2 per cent of the total orders.

Fall protection at heights

There were 20 orders issued under Section 85, the requirement under the Regulation for Industrial Establishments for the provision of fall-protection devices at heights over three metres.

Conclusion

The high percentage (46 per cent) of all orders issued to employers during the blitz under Sections 25 and 26 and Sections 8 and 9 suggests that the Internal Responsibility System in the workplaces visited generally requires strengthening.

Moving forward

As a result of the ministry’s findings during last year’s blitz on fall hazards in the industrial sector, and this year’s blitz, a similar blitz on fall-related hazards is planned for 2011-2012. Furthermore, fall-related hazards will be included in an enhanced enforcement initiative on musculoskeletal disorder hazards and loading dock hazards in 2010-2011.

Workplace inspection blitzes

The ministry announces inspection blitzes in advance and posts the results on its website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its safety regulations.

Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. In selecting workplaces for proactive inspections, the ministry uses predictive indicators such as inherent hazards and poor records of compliance with safety regulations.

Inspectors’ findings determine their subsequent level of engagement and frequency of inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors often refer employers to Health and Safety Associations for compliance assistance and training.