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Blitz Results: Personal Protective Equipment

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

Thousands of workers lose time at work due to incidents that could be prevented if they wore proper personal protective equipment.

From October 1 to October 31, 2011, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted a workplace enforcement blitz on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the industrial and health care sectors. Inspectors checked on compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Personal protective equipment acts as a barrier to guard workers against hazards such as blows to the body, loud noise, heat, chemicals and infection. Personal protective equipment includes protective clothing, helmets, shoes, goggles, respirators and other safety gear worn by workers.

They checked that the equipment was:

  • an appropriate choice for protection;
  • used in the correct manner; and
  • well maintained.

The goal was to:

  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards through use of PPE
  • 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 personal protective equipment.

Report summary

Workers using inappropriate or poorly maintained personal protective equipment are at risk of injury and illness.

In 2010, 1,075 workers suffered eye injuries, 1,515 workers suffered head injuries and 1,120 workers suffered foot injuries due to incidents related to personal protective equipment.

In October 2011, MOL inspectors checked on head, eye, foot, respiratory and other protection worn or used by workers at industrial and health care workplaces.

Industrial: Inspectors conducted 826 blitz-related visits to 701 industrial workplaces and issued 2,495 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 86 stop-work orders.

Health care: Inspectors conducted 119 blitz-related visits to 104 health care workplaces and issued 316 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including five stop-work orders.

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 safety regulations.

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

Blitz focus

Inspectors checked that:

  • employers and supervisors select PPE appropriate to protect workers against specific hazards;
  • supervisors instruct workers on the proper use of required PPE;
  • workers use the required PPE; and
  • employers and supervisors properly maintain the PPE.

Inspectors paid particular attention to workplaces in the following sectors:

Industrial

  • wood and metal fabrication;
  • vehicle sales and service;
  • food and beverage;
  • wholesalers; and
  • education.

Health care

  • hospitals;
  • long-term care homes;
  • homes for residential care (retirement homes);
  • group homes;
  • professional offices and agencies;
  • treatment clinics; and
  • specialized services.

Inspection activity

Industrial

During the blitz in October 2011, MOL inspectors conducted 826 blitz-related visits to 701 industrial workplaces and issued 2,495 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 86 stop-work orders.

In industrial workplaces, inspectors focused on head, eye and foot protection. They also addressed other types of personal protective equipment, including fall, respiratory, skin and hearing protection.

Inspectors issued orders at a rate of 3.02 per workplace visit.

Table 1: Blitz in October 2011 for visits and orders to industrial workplaces under the OHSA and its regulations
  Personal Protective Equipment Blitz Activity (Industrial)
October 1 – 31, 2011
Number of Workplaces visited 701
Total visits[ 1 ] 826
Orders (all types) 2,495
Stop-work orders 86
Orders per visit 3.02
Stop work orders per visit 0.10

Health care

During the blitz, MOL inspectors conducted 119 blitz-related visits to 104 health care workplaces and issued 316 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including five stop-work orders.

In health care workplaces, inspectors focused on head, eye, face, respiratory, hearing, hand and foot protective equipment for non-clinical staff in dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, central sterile supply and laundry departments.

Inspectors issued orders at a rate of 2.65 orders per workplace visit.

Table 2: Blitz in October 2011 for visits and orders to health care workplaces under the OHSA and its regulations
  Personal Protective Equipment Blitz Activity (Health Care)
October 1 – 31, 2011
Number of Workplaces visited 104
Total visits[ 1 ] 119
Orders (all types) 316
Stop-work orders 5
Orders per visit 2.65
Stop work orders per visit 0.04

Order analysis

Industrial

The most common orders issued under the OHSA and its Regulations for Industrial Establishments for various violations is shown in the table below.

Table 3: Orders issued OHSA and its Regulation for Industrial Establishments
Reason for order Number of orders Percentage
of total orders issued
Employer duty to take reasonable precautions to protect worker
[OHSA S. 25(2)(h)]
301 12%
Employer duty to maintain equipment, materials,
protective devices in good condition [OHSA S. 25(1)(b)]
177 7.0%
Employer duty to review health and safety policy and
develop / implement program [OHSA S. 25(2)(j)]
92 4%
Employer duty to post OHSA copy [OHSA S. 25(2)(i)] 81 3%
Employer duty to provide information, instruction and
supervision to worker [OHSA S. 25(2)(j)]
70 2%
Worker requirement to wear eye protection where exposed to
eye injury (Industrial S. 81)
40 2%
Worker requirement to wear foot protection where exposed to
hazard of foot injury (Industrial Reg. S. 82)
23 1.0%
Employer duty to provide instruction and training in care and use of personal protective equipment before wearing
(Industrial Reg. S. 79) 14
14 1.0%
Worker requirement to wear shield, screen or barrier to protect skin where exposed to hazard of skin injury [Industrial Reg. S. 84(f)] 7 0.3%

Health care

Orders were issued under the OHSA, the Health Care and Residential Facilities Regulation, and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation for various violations.

Table 4: Orders issued under the OHSA and its Regulations for Health Care & Residential Facilities and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems (WHMIS)
Reason for order Number of orders Percentage
of total orders issued
Employer duty to take reasonable precautions to protect worker
[OHSA S. 25(2)(h)]
72 23%
Employer duty to have written measures and procedures for worker use, wearing and care of personal protective equipment and its limitations (Health Care Reg. S. 9) 28 9%
Employer duty to ensure employer's equipment, materials and protective equipment are maintained in good condition [OHSA S. 25(1) (b)] 18 6%
Employer duty to provide suppliers' material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and unexpired MSDSs for controlled products (WHMIS Reg. S. 17) 18 6%
Worker's requirement to wear appropriate protection such as eye/ head and foot protection where worker exposed to hazard of eye/foot injury (Health Care Reg. S. 11) 15 5%

Conclusion

Industrial

The highest percentage of orders issued (30 per cent) involved violations of employer duties under OHSA Section 25. This indicated inspectors identified workplaces that primarily needed enforcement action.

The low percentage of orders for violations involving a worker's requirement to wear personal protective equipment (3.3 per cent) indicates this equipment is being worn.

However the very high percentage of orders involving violations of employer duties indicates this equipment is not being properly maintained and workers are not receiving the information, instruction, supervision they need to ensure it's properly used.

Health care

The highest percentage of orders issued (23 per cent) involved violations of an employer's obligation to take every reasonable precaution to protect a worker.

This indicates the ministry needs to continue to focus attention on health and safety issues involving personal protective equipment. Within this sector, this can be achieved through enforcement in health care workplaces and education activities with health and safety system partners.

The orders issued most frequently were under the OHSA, Health Care and Residential Facilities Regulation and WHMIS Regulation. This indicates that more attention is needed in health care workplaces to ensure employers:

  • take every reasonable precaution to protect a worker;
  • have in place written measures and procedures to protect workers from biological, chemical and physical hazards;
  • maintain their equipment, materials and protective devices n good condition;
  • provide supplier material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and unexpired MSDSs for controlled products; and
  • consult with the workplace's Joint Health and Safety Committee or health and safety representative on measures and procedures to protect workers, including the use, wearing and care of PPE and its limitations.

Next steps

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS). Employers, supervisors, workers, their health and safety associations, the ministry and WSIB all have key roles to play in ensuring health and safety in the workplace and eliminating workplace injuries and deaths.

PPE continues to be part of the ministry's inspection focus at industrial and health care workplaces. The ministry will continue to work with its occupational health and safety partners to:

  • promote awareness of the continuing need to identify and control workplace hazards through the use of PPE;
  • promote voluntary compliance with the OHSA requirements relating to PPE; and
  • strengthen the IRS.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards related to the use, care and limitations of PPE.

Employers are required to comply with a range of duties such as instructing, training and supervising workers to protect their health and safety and making them aware of the associated workplace hazards.

Compliance help for employers

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

[ 1 ]Refers to the total number of individual visits MOL inspectors made to all workplaces during this blitz.