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Blitz Results: Preventing Hazards Related to Construction Equipment and Material Handling

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

In June and July 2010, Ministry of Labour inspectors checked specifically for hazards related to equipment and material handling at construction projects.

These hazards included those that could cause workers to be struck by, or pinned, by material and/or equipment or hurt by overturning equipment. Such hazards are often due to:

  • insufficient training of operators
  • lack of procedures on the job to accommodate the safe use of equipment, or
  • inadequate maintenance of equipment.

Report summary

Incidents involving equipment and material handling continue to result in critical injuries and deaths among Ontario construction workers.

Of all the orders issued during this blitz, 14.4 per cent were related to equipment, material handling and storage.

Inspectors encountered equipment in poor condition, non-compliance with the over protection system regulation, and lack of seat belts.

The blitz offered an opportunity to reach large numbers of semi-skilled or untrained workers and students.

The Ministry of Labour will continue to focus on the hazards related to equipment and material handling during routine workplace inspections.

Full report

Equipment and material handling hazards at construction sites

Incidents involving equipment and material handling continue to critically injure and kill Ontario construction workers.

From 2005 to 2009, inclusive, 40 Ontario fatalities have been attributed to workers being struck by, or crushed by, construction equipment or the material they were handling with equipment.

In 2009, about 40 per cent of construction fatalities involved heavy equipment, including electrocution when equipment contacted power lines.

Blitz focus

The two-month blitz focused on:

  • Training and supervision of equipment operators
  • Following manufacturer’s instruction for operation of equipment, and
  • Roll over protection systems and use of seat belts.

The use of semi-skilled or untrained workers and students is prevalent in the construction industry and these labourers usually assist in material-handling activities. The heightened enforcement offered an opportunity to reach these vulnerable workers.

Inspectors visited projects within all construction sub-sectors, including:

  • Industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI)
  • Residential (high- and low-rise)
  • Road building, asphalt paving
  • Demolition/renovation/formwork
  • Utilities
  • Excavation

Inspection activity

From June 1 to July 31, 2010, ministry occupational health and safety inspectors throughout Ontario conducted 1,210 workplace visits involving 1,023 projects. They issued 2,728 orders — including 206 stop-work orders — relating to the use of equipment and to material handling.

Under the Provincial Offences Act, inspectors issued 14 Part I tickets (offence notices) and 17 Part III summonses at the projects for various offences, including those related to equipment maintenance and seat belt use.

Order analysis

Orders were issued under Ontario Regulation 213/91 sections 93-116, with regards to general equipment, sections 31-40 for material handling, sections 67-69 for traffic control, sections 150-180 for cranes, sections 188 for electrical hazards, sections 228-234 for excavations and Ontario Regulation 856/90 for roll over protection systems.

Of the 2,728 orders issued during the inspection blitz, seven per cent were related to fall protection, and 14 per cent to equipment, material handling, and general storage. The three orders most frequently issued concerned:

  • General duties including duties of employers, supervisors, workers under the OHSA — 16 per cent
  • Equipment, material handling and storage, including maintenance and manufacturer instructions — 14.4 per cent and
  • Fall protection including guardrails, coverings for opening and personal protective equipment — seven per cent.

Forty-seven orders were issued for non-compliance with the roll over protection system regulation. Many workers were found operating equipment without wearing seat belts.

The three types of construction sub-sectors most frequently visited by inspectors were:

  • industrial, commercial, institutional (ICI) — 400 visits
  • residential — 312 visits, and
  • road building and sewer/water main projects — 204 visits.

Workplace inspection blitzes

Although inspection blitzes by the ministry are announced to the appropriate sector in advance, individual workplaces receive no prior warning. Results are posted on the ministry’s 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 construction projects 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.

Next steps

The Ministry of Labour will continue to focus resources on the hazards related to this blitz during routine workplace inspections.

The Ministry of Labour will continue to remind employers and workers that equipment and material handling remain are a leading cause of workplace critical injuries and fatalities and increased awareness is needed when construction equipment is operating on project. Workers must be adequately trained to use of the equipment and to understand the hazards associated with that equipment.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards associated with equipment and material handling. More information on identifying and preventing these hazards is available from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA).