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Blitz Results: Material Handling

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: Februrary 11, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: February 2016

Workers can be seriously injured or even die as a result of hazards involving material handling.

From September 14 to October 23, 2015, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz at industrial workplaces in Ontario. It was the second year in a row the ministry targeted these hazards in a blitz.

Material handling involves activities related to the loading, unloading, storage and movement of goods and supplies in workplaces.

Inspectors checked for material handling hazards that could result in worker injuries and deaths. They checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The goals of the blitz were to:

  • raise awareness of material handling hazards in workplaces
  • increase workplace compliance with the safe maintenance and operation of lifting devices
  • prevent worker injuries and illness

This blitz was part of the government’s continued commitment to preventing workplace injuries and illness through its Safe At Work Ontario enforcement initiative.

Background

In 2013, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) comprised 37 per cent of all injuries involving lost time at work, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Workers being struck by objects and equipment, as well as other contact, accounted, on average, for more than 27 per cent of claims received by the WSIB in 2014 for lost-time injuries.

Together, these two types of injuries have consistently accounted for between 65 and 70 per cent of all lost time at work, according to the WSIB.

Report summary

From September 14 to October 23, 2015, ministry inspectors conducted 1,224 visits to 1,014 workplaces and issued 4,393 orders [1] under the OHSA and its regulations. This included 107 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times.

The top three most frequently issued orders involved employers’ failure to ensure:

  • lifting devices were examined by a competent person and safely operated within their load capacity
  • equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer were maintained in good condition
  • materials were moved in such a way as to not endanger a worker’s safety and were transported, placed or stored so the materials would not tip, collapse or fall

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 to be visited by inspectors are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry's website.

The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and are intended to promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

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

Blitz focus

During the blitz, inspectors visited a range of workplaces in the industrial sector, including retail outlets, plants, factories and workshops. They mainly visited workplaces in the following sectors:

  • automotive
  • ceramics, glass and stone
  • chemical, rubber and plastics
  • retail
  • wholesalers (including building supply centres)
  • wood and metal fabrication

In particular, the blitz targeted workplaces:

  • with a high incidence of lost-time injuries
  • not previously visited by the ministry
  • where complaints had been received
  • where there was a history of non-compliance

The inspectors focused on:

  • Lift trucks and other lifting devices: Inspectors checked that employers had examined lift trucks and other lifting devices (including related hardware and rigging equipment) to ensure they were being operated within their load capacity and that they were maintained in good condition.
  • Workplace layout/design: Inspectors checked that employers were providing safe and appropriate access and egress to work areas. They also checked that workers/pedestrians were not endangered by mobile equipment or the movement of materials at the workplace.
  • Manual handling: Inspectors checked that employers had developed and trained workers on safe manual material handling practices. They also checked that items required to be manually handled were done so in a safe manner, including while a worker was on a ladder, mobile ladder or step stool.
  • Mobile/transport equipment: Inspectors checked that employers had ensured equipment was appropriate for use, maintained in good condition and safe practices were being followed. This included checking employers had safe load securement procedures and workplace traffic management plans.
  • Storage systems: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring that materials were placed or stored in a safe manner and could be removed or withdrawn without endangering a worker’s safety. This included checking on bulk, rack and automated or unitizing/palletizing equipment processes/practices.
  • Internal Responsibility System: Inspectors checked that employers, supervisors, and workers were aware of their OHSA roles and responsibilities. They also checked that required health and safety representatives or Joint Health and Safety Committees were in place, where appropriate, and were functioning as required.
  • Worker training: Inspectors checked that employers were providing information and instruction to workers to perform material handling tasks safely, including providing mandatory basic awareness occupational health and safety training.
  • Workplace supervision: Inspectors checked that supervisors had completed the mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training.

Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Inspection activity

From September 14 to October 23, 2015, ministry inspectors conducted 1,224 visits to 1,014 workplaces and issued 4,393 orders under the OHSA and its regulations.

On average, 4.33 orders were issued per workplace visited. Some of the workplaces were visited several times with an average of 3.59 orders issued per field visit.

The orders were issued for various violations under the:

Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors.

Table 1: Top workplace sectors visited
Sector Orders Issued Stop Work Orders Issued Requirements Workplaces visited
Retail 1,405 24 23 345
Wholesalers 586 22 32 122
Wood & Metal Fabrication 472 13 14 93
Vehicle Sales & Service 344 3 4 62
Industrial Services 197 9 1 43
Automotive 181 4 4 41
Food, Beverage & Tobacco 174 4 3 40
Transportation 103 0 5 26
Chemical, Rubber & Plastics 107 2 1 25
Restaurants 104 1 1 24
Ceramics, Glass & Stone 112 2 2 17

Order analysis

Table 2: Most commonly issued orders under OHSA and Industrial Regulations
Reason for Order Number of Orders Percentage Total Orders Issued
Failure to ensure lifting devices are examined by a competent person and safely operated within their load capacity [Industrial Reg. s. 51] 306 7.0%
Failure to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [OHSA s. 25(1)(b)] 287 6.5%
Failure to ensure materials are moved so they do not endanger a worker’s safety and are transported, placed, or stored so the materials will not tip, collapse or fall [Industrial Reg. s. 45] 216 4.9%
Failure to post a copy of the OHSA [OHSA s. 25(2)(i)] 214 4.9%
Failure to ensure a floor used by a worker is kept free of obstructions, hazards and accumulation of refuse, ice or snow [Industrial Reg. s. 11] 200 4.6%
Failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [OHSA s. 25(2)(h)] 160 3.6%
Failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of a worker [OHSA s. 25(2)(a)] 146 3.3%
Failure to ensure machinery, equipment or material that may tip or fall and endanger any worker is secured against tipping or falling [Industrial Reg. s. 46] 138 3.1%
Failure to prevent access to a machine’s pinch point by using a guard or other device [Industrial Reg. s. 25] 115 2.6%
Failure to prevent access to moving parts of equipment that may endanger a worker [Industrial Reg. s. 24] 93 2.1%

Of the total orders issued:

  • 11.8 per cent (518 orders) were issued under Part III.0.1 of the OHSA provisions for workplace violence and harassment. They involved employers’ failure to comply with requirements to:
    • have workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
    • assess or re-assess the risks of workplace violence arising from the nature of the workplace, type of work or conditions of work
    • provide information and instruction to workers on the workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
  • 10 per cent (435 orders) were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation for violations involving:
    • basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers (236 orders or 5.4 percent of total orders)
    • basic occupational health and safety awareness training for supervisors (199 orders or 4.5 per cent of total orders)
  • 2.4 per cent (107 orders) were stop work orders that were issued for hazards, including unguarded equipment, broken ladders, damaged racking and unsafe lifting devices.

Observations

The large number of orders issued (4,393) during the 2015 blitz indicates workers continue to be exposed to material handling hazards.

In 2014, during the material handlinig blitz ministry inspectors visited 701 workplaces and issued 3,263 orders under the OHSA and its regulations for similar violations.

The ministry will continue to focus on material handling safety during routine workplace inspections of Ontario's industrial workplaces. During visits, inspectors will continue to check that employers are ensuring:

  • lifting devices are examined by a competent person and safely operated within their load capacity
  • equipment is maintained and materials are safely transported and stored
  • racking systems and ladders are free from damage
  • workers are not exposed to pinch points or moving parts
  • workers are informed, instructed and supervised, as required
  • every precaution reasonable in the circumstancess is taken to protect workers from material handling hazards

Next steps

The ministry will continue to raise awareness of material handling hazards in Ontario workplaces.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS).

One of the primary purposes of the OHSA is to facilitate a strong IRS in the workplace. To this end, the OHSA lays out the duties of employers, supervisors, workers, constructors and workplace owners. The workplace parties' compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS and control of hazards in the workplace.

Employers, superviors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control material handling hazards.

Compliance help for employers

For compliance assistance, view the Ministry of Labour health and safety awareness products and training for workplace parties, including:

Please contact Ministry of Labour health and safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards.

[1] Orders issued includes all orders and requirements.