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Blitz Results: Falls Hazards in Construction Sector

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: February 2, 2015
  • Content last reviewed: February 2015

Falls are the number one cause of critical injuries and deaths of workers at construction sites in Ontario.

In July and August 2014, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz on falls hazards at construction sites.

Inspectors checked for hazards involving a broad range of falls such as from ladders elevating work platforms, suspended access equipment and structures as well as falls from one level to another. They checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The goal of the blitz was to:

  • raise awareness of hazards involving falls hazards at construction projects
  • increase worksite compliance with the law
  • prevent injuries that could arise from unsafe work practices

The blitz responds to the Chief Prevention Officer's Call to Action for falls prevention and supports the Integrated Action Plan to Prevent Falls from Heights: a collaborative plan of action between the ministry and its partners in occupational health and safety.

The blitz also included messaging about preventing falls: "Stop falls before they stop you". The message was developed collaboratively by the ministry and health and safety system partners to raise awareness and demonstrate a system-wide commitment to preventing fatalities and injuries that could result from falls hazards.

Report summary

During July and August of 2014, ministry inspectors conducted 2,038 visits to 1,670 workplaces and issued 6,458 orders under the OHSA, including 584 stop work orders.

As of January 13, 2015, about 95 per cent of the orders were complied with.

The top three most commonly issued orders were for violations involving:

  • failure to use personal protective equipment
  • failure to erect guardrails
  • failure to use other forms of fall protection when guardrails were not reasonably possible

Full report

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 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 health and safety-related training.

Blitz focus

The scope of the campaign was comprehensive and included all aspects of fall protection methods to eliminate falls hazards at Ontario construction projects.

Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

Employer duties: Inspectors checked that employers had policies and programs in place to protect workers from falls hazards as well as emergency procedures if a fall took place at a construction project. Inspectors also checked that employers were providing appropriate access to and egress from work areas and ensuring ladder safety.

Safe work practices: Inspectors checked that employers had safe work practices, including assessing fall hazards risks and responding immediately to any hazards. They also checked for policies and procedures that ensure an investigation takes place into all fall-related incidents. As well, they checked for programs that outline the roles of workplace parties for ensuring good "housekeeping" practices to keep workplaces free of falls hazards.

Falls from ladders, mobile stands and platforms: Inspectors checked that workers were adequately using ladders, stands and platforms. They also checked that the ladders, stands and platforms were properly assessed for hazards, properly designed, built and maintained and placed on firm footing.

Guardrails and guarded openings: Inspectors checked that guardrails were in place and that floor openings, work surfaces or walls of buildings or other structures were covered, as required.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety devices: Inspectors checked that fall protection equipment was being properly selected, used and maintained for tasks. They also checked on the availability, adequacy and condition of this equipment.

Worker training: Inspectors checked that workers were properly trained and supervised to prevent injuries and deaths from falls hazards. They also checked that workers were aware of their right to refuse unsafe work.

Falls from heights: Inspectors checked that guardrails, travel restraint or fall arrest equipment was being used for work on platforms, raised floors, mezzanines, balconies or other work at heights. They checked that appropriate methods for controlling hazards that could lead to falls were included in constructor and employer health and safety policies and programs, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment, adequate housekeeping, and the use of appropriate administrative controls.

Inspection activity summary

Table 1: Field visits conducted at construction projects
Program Activities Number
Field visits 2,038
Number of workplaces visited 1,670
Orders issued 6,458
Stop work orders 584
Requirements 78 [1]
Orders and requirements per workplace visited 3.86
Orders and requirements per visit 3.17

[1] Included in the "orders issued" count.


Order analysis

Incidents involving falls hazards continue to be a workplace issue at Ontario construction projects.

Of the 6,458 total orders:

  • 1,624 orders (25 per cent) were issued under the OHSA
  • 584 stop work orders (nine per cent) and 78 requirements were issued under the OHSA
  • 4,702 orders (73 per cent) were issued under the Regulations for Construction Projects
Table 2: The 10 most commonly issued falls-related orders
Reason for Order Number of Orders Percentage of Falls Orders Issued
Protective Headwear (PPE) [Construction Regulation S. 22(1)] 418 6.47%
Stop work order [OHSA S. 57(6)(b)] 381 5.9%
Missing fall protection system [Construction Regulation S. 26.1(2)] 262 4.06%
Constructor duty to ensure that every worker and every employer on the project, comply with OHSA and regulations [OHSA S. 23(1)(b)]) 217 3.75%
Stop work order [OHSA S. 57(6)(a)] 197 3.05%
Missing guardrail [Construction Regulation Subsection 26.3(1)] 177 2.74%
Constructor duty to ensure measures and procedures prescribed by OHSA and regulations are complied with [OHSA S. 23(1)(a)] 164 2.54%
Guardrail not meeting the requirements of the regulation [Construction Regulation S. 26.1(1)] 162 2.51%
Missing fall protection [Construction Regulation S. 26.3(2)] 144 2.23%
Protective footwear [Construction Regulation S. 23(1)] 128 1.98%
Constructor failing to complete and file a notice of project [Construction Regulation S. 6(3)] 128 1.98%

Analysis

The inspectors issued 578 stop work orders under OHSA Section 57(6)(a) and 57(6)(b). Most of these orders involved fall protection violations. Included were:

  • 228 stop work orders at single family housing projects (39 per cent of all stop work orders)
  • 110 stop work orders at commercial building construction projects (19 per cent of all stop work orders)
  • 91 stop work orders at apartments and multiple housing projects (16 per cent of all stop work orders).

The results indicate falls hazards continue to be a key concern at construction projects and that all workplace parties need to improve safety and their understanding of their duties and responsibilities under the OHSA.

Next steps

Ministry inspectors will continue to pay special attention to the areas of concern noted in the analysis section above. This includes hazards involving falls and other safety issues.

Compliance help for employers

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