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Preventing Infectious Diseases on Construction Projects

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

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Protecting workers is part of the government's commitment to prevent workplace injuries and diseases through its Safe At Work Ontario Strategy.

Construction workers are often at risk from exposure to infectious diseases on construction projects due to poor sanitary conditions associated with toilets and clean-up facilities.

Poor sanitation is a major cause of disease and can be a serious occupational health risk.

Infectious disease prevention and control will be the focus of a province-wide enforcement strategy on construction projects as part of the Construction Sector Plan and the Ministry of Labour's Safe at Work Ontario strategy. Attention to safe work practices for the protection of workers from infectious diseases due to poor sanitary conditions on construction projects will be emphasized.

Inspectors will focus on the following items:

General duties of workplace parties

Protecting workers from infectious diseases on construction projects

It is the responsibility of employers, owners, constructors, suppliers of equipment, and supervisors to ensure that all workplace parties comply with the provisions of the OHSA and the regulations in order to protect workers from hazards in the workplace including the protection of workers from infectious diseases due to inadequate sanitation on construction projects.

Construction employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to ensure that every reasonable precaution in the circumstance is taken for the protection of workers (section 25(2) (h)) of the OHSA.

Employers must report all occupational diseases to the Ministry of Labour and the workplace's Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) as required by Section 52(2) of the OHSA.

Employers are also required, by clause 25(2) (a) of the OHSA, to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker. This includes, and is not limited to, information and instruction and supervision about infectious diseases and associated hazards and health risks.

Constructors must ensure that, in accordance with section 29 of the Construction Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91), toilets, urinals and clean-up facilities are provided or arranged for workers before work starts at a project and that there is reasonable access to them.

Suppliers have a duty under section 31 of the OHSA, to provide toilets and clean-up facilities that are in good condition and that comply with section 29.1 of the Construction Regulation.

Safe work practices

Constructors

Toilets

  • Provide (or make arrangements for) water flush toilets that are connected to a sanitary sewer, or chemical flush toilets that are not connected to a sanitary sewer.
  • Ensure that minimum numbers of toilets as prescribed per number of workers regularly employed at the project are provided, and separate facilities for female workers are provided, unless the facilities are intended to be used by only one worker at a time.
  • Ensure an adequate number of urinals are provided. Subsection 29.1(6) of the Construction Regulation provides the number of urinals that can replace toilets if the facilities are only to be used by males. Ensure that facilities are serviced as often as required. (One week intervals may not be sufficient in warm weather or when larger numbers of workers are present at a project).

Clean-up facilities

  • Provide an adequate number of clean-up facilities, as prescribed (not less than ½ the number as toilets) and ensure that they are equipped with wash basins, with both hot and cold running water where reasonably possible, paper towels and receptacle or a hand dryer.
  • In cases where it is not reasonably possible to provide running water, it is permissible to use hand cleanser that can be used without water, paper towels (and receptacle) or a hand dryer.

Note: Although this is a fact-specific determination to be made by an inspector at a workplace, it is the position of the Ministry of Labour that clean-up facilities complete with hot and cold water (or [ 1 ]warm water) are, as a general matter, reasonable to provide by Constructors in almost all construction projects, with the exception of long "mobile" projects, short duration projects (less than 1 month) or very geographically remote projects where road access is not possible.

Toilet and Clean-up Facilities

  • Ensure that the facilities are adequately heated (if possible), ventilated, illuminated and kept in good condition at all times.
  • Ensure that facilities are regularly serviced, cleaned and sanitized.
  • Keep records of when they were serviced, cleaned and sanitized.

Employers

  • Inform, instruct and supervise workers on proper procedures when using the facilities and the importance of hand washing and sanitary conditions.
  • Ensure that workers follow proper procedures and report hazards.
  • Advise workers on the dangers to health and safety and hazards, health risks and infectious diseases associated with poor hand hygiene and poor sanitation of toilet facilities.

Supervisors

  • Ensure on behalf of their employer that the construction projects have adequate facilities and they are adequately serviced and sanitized
  • Advise workers on the dangers to health and safety and hazards, health risks and infectious diseases associated with poor hand hygiene and poor sanitation of toilet facilities

Workers

  • Follow safe practices and good personal hygiene
  • Report any unsafe condition to their supervisor

Construction Health & Safety Program (CHSP) and stakeholder engagement

  • There is a renewed commitment among industry stakeholders in our sector to improve sanitary conditions on construction projects and to achieve better compliance with the OHSA and Construction Regulations.
  • The Ministry has been working with the Ontario Association of Sewage Industry Services (OASIS) and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) to educate and inform suppliers and contractors of their respective responsibilities under the OHSA and the Construction Regulations.
  • The Ministry, OASIS and IHSA have developed joint supplier driven educational seminars delivered in the Central Region that will be expanded to the Eastern and Western Regions in the forthcoming months

More information

More information about Infectious Diseases and the Enforcement Strategy and Compliance on construction projects can be found at the following links:

Read more about Ontario's Safe At Work Ontario strategy to improve workplace safety

Ministry of Labour, Construction Safety

Call toll-free

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, for general inquiries about workplace health and safety.

[ 1 ] Where electrical power is not available, the use of warm water is permissible in lieu of providing hot and cold running water.