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.
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|
|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.
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.
Ministry construction inspectors focused on the following key priorities:
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|
|Orders Per Field Visit||3.04|
|Stop Work Orders||333|
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%|
|Administrative Requirements[ 4 ]||9.7%|
|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)).
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.
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.
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:
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.