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Blitz Results:
Low-Rise Residential (Homebuilder) Blitz

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: October 2011
  • Content last reviewed: October 2011

The homebuilding industry continues to be a key source of work-related injuries in the construction industry. More critical injuries, fatalities and lost-time injuries occur in this sector than in any other part of the construction industry.

In May 2011, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz of low-rise residential construction sites, checking for health and safety hazards.

The blitz focused on fall protection, site excavations and trenching, concrete form-setting operations, overexertion, safe use of equipment, noisy environments and new and young workers.

The goal was to raise awareness of key health and safety hazards and ensure workplace parties comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and its regulations to prevent injuries and illnesses.

Report summary

Between 2006 and 2010, 26 workers died at low-rise residential construction sites and 329 were critically injured[ 1 ].

Although Ontario’s construction industry is one of the safest in the world with 1.20 lost-time injuries per 100 employed construction workers, there is a high potential for incidents that may lead to injury due to the nature and conditions of the work. The LTI rate in the low rise residential (homebuilding) sector has historically been higher then the provincial average. As shown in the table below, the LTI rate for 2009 (latest figures) was 1.84 with a five year average of 2.23 LTI’s per 100 workers.

Low-rise residential 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 5-year total
Lost-time injuries 475 499 503 564 422 2,463

Low-rise residential 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 5-year average
Lost-time injury rate per 100 full-time workers 2.50 2.39 2.24 2.17 1.84 2.23

In 2009 alone, a total of 422 LTI claims cost the homebuilding sector $3.4 million – about 18 percent of the total cost of all construction industry LTI claims for that year.

Full report

Workplace Inspection Blitzes

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 known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

Inspectors’ findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Blitz Focus

Ministry construction inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

  • Fall Protection: Inspectors checked that adequate fall protection systems were in place at all low-rise residential construction sites visited, especially sites where workers were involved in framing and roofing operations. They also checked that workers were properly trained in the safe use of fall protection components and equipment.
  • Site Excavations and Trenching: Inspectors checked that trenches and excavations were properly sloped and shored using engineered or hydraulic support systems or shielded with prefabricated support systems such as trench boxes.
  • Concrete Form-Setting Operations: Inspectors checked that workers were properly trained in the design, set-up, building and inspection of foundation and basement construction.
  • Overexertion: Inspectors checked that workers were trained in the proper lifting, pushing and pulling of materials and that written measures, procedures and supervision were in place. They also checked that workers were not engaging in activities that could lead to increased physical demand and awkward postures, resulting in Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).
  • Safe Use of Access Equipment: Inspectors checked that workers were adequately trained in the use and maintenance of vehicles, machinery, tools and equipment (such as ramps, stairs, ladders, scaffolds, work platforms and powered elevating work platforms). They also checked that manufacturers’ operating manuals and instructions were available when required by regulation and that adequate written measure and procedures were in place.
  • Noisy Environments: Inspectors ensured adequate hearing protection was worn, as needed, to protect workers from exposure to excess noise.
  • New and Young Workers: Inspectors checked that workplace parties were complying with the OHSA and its regulations, including worker training, personal protective equipment, written measures and procedures, minimum age requirements (age 16 years) and adequate supervision.
  • Trades Qualification: For the compulsory construction trades, strict compliance with O. Reg. 572/99 Training Requirements for Certain Skills Sets and Trades was verified.

Inspection activity

From May 1 to May 31, 2011, MOL inspectors conducted 1,068 field visits to 844 workplaces and issued 3,251 orders under the OHSA, including 333 stop work orders.

The following table provides an overview of the blitz results:

Program Activities Low-Rise Residential (Homebuilder) Blitz
Field Visits 1,068
Workplaces Contacted 844
Orders Issued 3,251
Orders Per Field Visit 3.04
Stop Work Orders 333

Order analysis

Orders were issued for various violations under the OHSA and Regulation for Construction Projects during the blitz.

The top five violations were:

Type of Hazard Percentage of the total orders issued
Safe Use of Access Equipment[ 2 ] 17.2%
Personal Protective Equipment[ 3 ] 13.6%
Fall Protection 13.2%
Administrative Requirements[ 4 ] 9.7%
Housekeeping 3.2%
Stop Work Order 10.2%

The results indicate the main health and safety issues in the Low-Rise Residential (Homebuilder) Blitz relate to access equipment, personal protective equipment and fall protection. The results also suggest a lack of compliance with administrative requirements of the OHSA and Construction Regulation.

Of the orders issued, 10.2 per cent were stop work orders. These were issued when an inspector observed a contravention involving an immediate danger or hazard to the health or safety of workers (OHSA s. 57(6)).

Conclusion

The highest percentage of orders issued (17.2 per cent) was for contraventions relating to the unsafe use of access equipment. This may indicate that workers and supervisors lack adequate required training for the equipment they use on the job, or it could indicate a poor level of safety engagement within the low-rise residential construction sector.

This conclusion is further supported by the next two most common hazards found by the construction inspectors. Personal protective equipment was 13.6 per cent and fall protection was 13.2 per cent of the total orders. This was the result of workers arriving on construction sites without some of the basic required equipment, such as hard hats and safety footwear. Hard hats and safety footwear are both required by the Construction Regulation. This has been a legislative requirement for more than 25 years. Training in these fundamental hazards appears to be lacking, or existing training has not been effective in engaging workers and supervisors to undertake safe work practices.

These findings show a lack of worker supervision and that supervisors don’t have enough legislative knowledge and work experience. The absence of basic safety-related personal protective equipment indicates a disregard or ignorance of basic safety legislative requirements.

Compliance help for employers

Employers are encouraged to seek workplace health and safety compliance assistance from the health and safety associations that comprise Health & Safety Ontario: Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, Public Services Health & Safety Association, Workplace Safety North, and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

Next Steps

The results of this blitz confirm the need to continue education and enforcement activities in the low-rise residential sector.

Accordingly, the ministry will continue to focus on:

  • compliance with the administrative responsibilities of workplace parties under the OHSA and the Construction Regulation
  • injury and illness performance in the construction industry’s low-rise residential (homebuilding) sector, including
  • major hazards and key issues identified during the blitz.

A health and safety culture requires all workplace parties to pay constant, appropriate attention to workplace health and safety. In other words, they must have a functioning internal responsibility system. A strong commitment by everyone is needed to prevent injuries and illness and to reduce risk.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards found on low-rise residential construction projects.

For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards, please contact our partners.

[ 1 ] Source: MOL Program Analysis, Evaluation and Outcomes Unit (PAEO) April 21, 2011

[ 2 ] Orders include contraventions involving ladders, suspended scaffolds, standard scaffolds, work platforms, etc

[ 3 ] Orders include contraventions involving hard hats, work boots, hearing protection and safety goggles.

[ 4 ] Orders include contraventions involving Notice of Projects and Form 1000 registration.