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3. Application | Confined Spaces Guideline

  • Issued: September 2006
  • Revised: July 2011
  • Content last reviewed: July 2011

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.

Who is covered by the new and amended confined spaces provisions?

The confined space requirements provide for the protection of most workers in Ontario covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Confined space provisions previously found in the sector regulations under the OHSA (Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Regulation for Construction Projects, Regulation for Health Care and Residential Facilities, and Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants) have been consolidated into one regulation, O. Reg. 632/05 (Confined Spaces Regulation or Regulation).

In addition, the Confined Spaces Regulation continues to apply to most other workplaces that are covered by the OHSA but not by one of the specific sector regulations. The MOL generally refers to these types of workplaces as “extended workplaces”, meaning that although the OHSA applies to them, there is no specific sector regulation that applies. Some examples of workers in extended workplaces are provincially regulated truck drivers when on the road, sewer service workers and teachers in educational facilities.

Several of the confined space provisions in the Regulation that apply on construction projects vary slightly from those that apply to other workplaces. This guideline will highlight these variations, where they exist.

The OHSA and its regulations can be found at ontario.ca/laws and on the Ministry of Labour web site.

Who is not covered by these provisions?

Workers in federally regulated workplaces, such as federal public servants, railway workers and airline workers are covered by federal labour legislation.

The Confined Spaces Regulation also does not apply to divers during a diving operation as defined in O. Reg. 629/94 (Diving Operations).

Although the OHSA, with certain limitations and three regulations made under it apply to farming operations, the Confined Spaces Regulation does not. However, the MOL has worked with farming stakeholders to develop health and safety guidelines to help employers, supervisors and workers on farms to recognize hazards. The “Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Farming Operations in Ontario” address hazardous atmospheres and confined spaces. Notably, separate activities on a farm that are not part of the farming operation (e.g., construction of a building) would be subject to the Confined Spaces Regulation if there is a confined space that workers may enter to perform work.

Why are there exceptions for some emergency work?

Only a firefighter as defined in the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 and a person who holds a certificate under the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 working under the direction of a fire department are exempt from parts of the Regulation while performing emergency work. Hazard recognition and other general training requirements continue to apply.

“Emergency work”, as defined in the Regulation, means “work performed in connection with an unforeseen event that involves an imminent danger to the life, health or safety of any person.”

There may be situations in which these workers must enter a confined space in order to perform emergency work, and it would not be reasonable to require that all of the administrative steps be taken prior to entry. In order for the exception to apply, the employer of the firefighter or gas technician must provide written procedures and other measures, confined space training, and personal protective equipment, clothing and devices to protect the workers during the emergency work.

Do workplaces have to comply with the national standard issued by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), “Z1006-10, Management of Work in Confined Spaces”?

No. CSA standards are voluntary standards and have been developed by committees with multiple stakeholders. It is up to a workplace to determine whether a standard would assist with compliance with legislative or regulatory requirements. Unless otherwise required by legislation or regulation to comply with a CSA standard, a CSA standard is a best practice standard that does not legally need to be complied with. The CSA confined space standard is not incorporated by reference into the Confined Spaces Regulation.

I am an employer and my workplace has a confined space. I contract out work to be done in the confined space. Do these provisions apply to me?

Yes. You are still an employer, as defined under the OHSA, when you contract out work for services. The general duties of the employer under the OHSA would apply, regardless of the situation. Therefore you have to ensure that workers who you have hired comply with the confined spaces provisions.

Refer to the multiple employer section when there are workers of more than one employer required to work in the same confined space.

Constructor duties, as defined under the OHSA would apply on construction projects.

I am a provincially regulated employer, who often is contracted by a federally regulated business, for federal business. Sometimes, we may also work with federal companies but for our own business. How would the Confined Spaces Regulation apply?

Provincially regulated workers, who occasionally work at or on a federal undertaking, are generally still subject to the authority of the OHSA. However, jurisdiction is determined on a case-by-case basis, and employers may wish to contact the Ministry of Labour for further information pertaining to their specific situations: Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre: 1-877-202-0008.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.