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Blitz Results: Access Equipment

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: January 2012
  • Content last reviewed: January 2012

Workers can suffer serious injuries and death when access equipment is improperly used. Lack of training and non-compliance with manufacturer's instructions are often the cause of these incidents.

From August 1 to August 31, 2011, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz of hazards involving all types of access equipment at Ontario constructions sites. Inspectors checked on compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The blitz focused on the appropriate selection of access equipment and its safe and proper use. This included an equipment audit.

The goal was to:

  • raise awareness of access equipment hazards
  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards
  • address and remedy non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • deter non-compliant employers
  • enhance health and safety partnerships, and
  • promote improved health and safety for workers using access equipment.

Report summary

Between 2003 and 2008, more than one-third of fatal falls involving construction workers involved access equipment. In total, 61 construction workers died from falls at construction sites. Of those, 24 fatalities involved access equipment.

On December 24, 2009, four workers fell 13 storeys to their deaths when a swing-stage came apart at a Toronto construction site. A fifth worker survived the fall. This incident prompted a review of Ontario's occupational health and safety system which led to recommendations for major changes that are currently being implemented by the ministry.

In August 2011, ministry inspectors conducted 998 visits to 903 workplaces and issued 2,955 orders under the OHSA, including 243 stop-work orders.

More than 16 per cent of the orders were for contraventions related to the unsafe use of access equipment.

The most commonly issued orders were for lack of adequate supervision and training, and inadequate implementation of a well functioning internal responsibility system (IRS).

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 of future inspections to particular types of workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for workplace compliance assistance and training.

Blitz focus

Inspectors checked that access equipment was:

  • used in accordance with legislative requirements
  • maintained according to manufacturers' instructions and legislative requirements, and
  • operated at a safe distance from overhead energized power lines.

They also checked that workers were:

  • adequately trained on the use of access equipment
  • aware of the construction site's written emergency procedures, and
  • aware of the person(s) responsible for implementation of the emergency procedures.

Inspectors also checked for compliance with OHSA and regulatory requirements, including:

  1. Elevating work platforms were:
    • erected on firm level surfaces
    • equipped with guardrails
    • inspected with maintenance tags attached to them as per manufacturers' instructions, and
    • in compliance with applicable standards.
  2. Suspended equipment had:
    • suitable and adequate anchor points
    • adequate hoisting and rigging components
    • erected, maintained and loaded platforms as per manufacturers' instructions, and
    • all components in compliance with the legislated requirements and adequate for the protection of the user.
  3. Ladders were:
    • in compliance with regulatory requirements
    • used with required fall protection, installed on a firm footing, with appropriate angle, and adequately secured.
  4. Ramps and runways were:
    • designed to support the loads they are subjected to
    • secured and equipped with cross cleats as per manufacturers' instructions
    • within the prescribed sloping requirements, and
    • equipped with prescribed guardrails.
  5. Stairs and landings were:
    • installed as prescribed
    • designed to withstand loads they have to bear, and
    • provided with appropriate rails on open sides.
  6. Work platforms and scaffolds were:
    • constructed with adequate dimensions
    • braced both on vertical and horizontal planes as per manufacturer's instructions
    • equipped with guardrails as prescribed
    • installed with fittings and gears as per manufacturer's instructions.

Additional areas of focus

  • 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 Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances or environmental hazards: Inspectors checked that controlled products complied with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Regulation. This included reviewing the suppliers' Material Safety Data Sheets and worker training.
  • Falls between levels and slips and falls: Inspectors checked that employers and workers were in compliance with fall protection requirements.
  • New & Young Workers: Inspectors checked on worker training and the availability and maintenance of personal protective equipment. They also checked that employers were complying with minimum age requirements, had written health and safety measures and procedures in place and that workers were adequately supervised.
  • Noise: Inspectors checked that workers had adequate hearing protection.

Inspection activity

From August 1 to 31, 2011, MOL inspectors conducted 998 visits to 903 workplaces and issued 2,955 orders under the OHSA, including 243 stop-work orders.

The following table provides an overview of the blitz results:

Construction sector access equipment blitz August 1 – 31, 2011, and total construction sector enforcement activity (including the blitz) August 1 – 31, 2011
  Construction Sector Access Equipment Blitz
August 1 – 31, 2011
Total Construction Sector Enforcement Activity (including the blitz)
August 1 – 31, 2011
Number of workplaces visited 903 1,889
Total workplace visits 998 2,298
Orders (all types) 2,995 5,723
Stop-work orders 243 538
Orders per workplace visit 2.96 2.49
Stop-work orders per workplace visit 0.24 0.23

Order analysis

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

The highest percentage of orders issued (16.6 per cent) involved unsafe use of access equipment. A blitz of low-rise residential construction projects had similar findings in May 2011, with the highest number of orders (17.2 per cent) involving unsafe use of access equipment.

The table below includes the top six most frequently issued orders during the August 2011 access equipment blitz:

Orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Regulation for Contruction Projects
Reason for order Number of orders Percentage of total orders issued
Safe Use of Access Equipment[1] 490 16.6%
Fall Protection 313 10.6%
Personal Protective Equipment[2] 254 8.6%
Stop Work Order 239 8.1%
Administrative Requirements[3] 239 8.1%
Housekeeping 109 3.7%
Written Emergency Procedures 103 3.5%

Conclusion

The results indicate safe use of access equipment and fall protection continue to be the two major health and safety concerns related to access equipment on construction projects. Inspectors also noted a lack of compliance with personal protective equipment and housekeeping requirements.

These findings demonstrate a need for increased worker supervision and a better understanding of legislative knowledge among supervisors. The absence of basic safety-related personal protective equipment also demonstrates a need for increased importance to be placed on fundamental safety practices on construction projects. The relatively high percentage of orders related to emergency procedures (seventh on the list of most issued orders) is an indicator that workers are not exercising their OHSA rights to know, participate and refuse unsafe work.

There is a need for increased engagement in health and safety practices among all workplace parties. Employers should focus on training, self-compliance, personal protective equipment, fall protection, utilizing tools and equipment as per manufacturers' instructions, hazard assessments and emergency procedures.

Next steps

The results of this blitz confirm a continued need for training, education and enforcement activities across all construction sectors. As a result, the ministry will continue to focus on:

  • compliance with the administrative responsibilities of workplace parties under the OHSA and its regulations; and
  • injury and illness performance in the construction industry, 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 well functioning internal responsibility system – where all workplace parties take responsibility for their own health and safety and that of their co-workers. 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 in construction workplaces.

Compliance help for employers

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

[1] Orders include contraventions involving access and egress, ladders, elevating work platforms, suspended equipment, ladders, ramps and runways, stairs and landings and work platforms and scaffolds

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

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