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Blitz Results: Material Handling Blitz 2014

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

Hazards involving material handling can lead to serious worker injuries and even death. In particular, workers are at risk for back injury and muscular strains as well as injuries resulting from being struck by, caught between, or crushed by tools, materials, equipment or vehicles.

From September 15 to October 26, 2014, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz at workplaces in the industrial sector in Ontario.

Inspectors checked for hazards involving material handling. They checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

The goal of the blitz was to:

  • ensure employers advise workers of hazards in the workplace
  • raise awareness of rights and responsibilities under the OHSA
  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards
  • address and remedy non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • deter non-compliant employers
  • enhance health and safety partnerships
  • promote improved health and safety at work

Report summary

Workers are at risk of injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) when handling, moving and storing materials in workplaces. In 2012, 39 per cent of all lost-time injuries involved MSDs.

Incidents often involve being struck by or hitting objects and equipment. Being struck by or hitting objects and equipment accounted for more than 26 per cent of compensation claims from workers whose injuries resulted in them missing time at work.[1]

Together, these two types of injuries have consistently accounted for almost 70 per cent of all lost time at work.[2]

From September 15 to October 26, 2014, ministry inspectors conducted 841 visits to 701 workplaces and issued 3,263 orders under the OHSA and its regulations. This included 130 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times.

As of December 19, 2014, 75 per cent of the orders had been complied with.

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

  • maintain equipment, materials and protective devices in good condition
  • ensure that lifting devices are examined annually to determine their capability to lift their maximum load as rated
  • take reasonable precautions for the protection of workers

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. They mainly focused on the following sectors:

  • Ceramics, glass and stone
  • Chemical, rubber and plastics
  • Wood and metal fabrication
  • Automotive
  • Construction premises
  • Building supply centres
  • Food beverage and tobacco
  • Pulp and paper
  • Textiles and printing

In particular, the blitz targeted workplaces:

  • With a high incidence of lost-time injuries
  • Not previously visited by the ministry
  • Where complaints have been received
  • Where there is a history of non-compliance

The inspectors focused on the following requirements:

  • Lift-trucks and other lifting devices: Inspectors checked that employers had lift-trucks and other lifting devices (including associated hardware and rigging equipment) rated for their loads and that they were well-maintained.
  • Workplace layout/design: Inspectors verified that employers were providing safe and appropriate access 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 procedures: Inspectors checked that employers had ensured workers performed tasks and interacted with their workplace in a manner to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and the risk of slips, trips and/or falls.
  • Mobile/transport equipment: Inspectors checked that employers had made sure equipment was appropriate for use, well-maintained and that safe practices were being followed (e.g. safe load securement procedures and workplace traffic management plans).
  • Storage systems: Inspectors checked that employers ensured materials were placed or stored in a manner that did not endanger workers, and that they could be removed or withdrawn without endangering workers’ safety. This included a focus on bulk, rack and automated or unitizing/palletizing equipment processes/practices.
  • Internal Responsibility System (IRS): Inspectors checked and evaluated workplaces’ IRS to confirm that required health and safety representatives or Joint Health and Safety Committees were in place, where appropriate, and were functioning as required by the OHSA. As well, they checked for policies that outlined the roles of workplace parties for ensuring the workplaces remain free of all hazards.
  • Worker training: Inspectors checked that employers were providing information and instruction to workers to perform assigned tasks.
  • Workplace supervision: Inspectors checked that employers were providing supervision to workers, as required by the OHSA.

Inspection activity

From September 15 to October 26, 2014, ministry inspectors conducted 841 visits to 701 workplaces and issued 3,263 orders under the OHSA and its regulations. This included 130 stop work orders.

On average, 4.65 orders were issued per workplace visit.

The orders were issued for various violations under the:

Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors.

Table 1: Top 13 workplaces visited by industrial sector
Sector Orders Issued Stop Work Orders Issued Requirements Issued Workplaces Visited
Wood and Metal Fabrication 687 27 19 119
Retail 553 5 15 148
Wholesalers (includes Building Supply Centres) 461 24 9 94
Chemical, Rubber and Plastics 220 9 6 49
Automotive 197 25 0 25
Vehicle Sales and Service 146 1 2 26
Food, Beverage and Tobacco 141 6 2 36
Industrial Services 91 1 4 33
Ceramics, Glass and Stone 88 4 0 18
Transportation 74 1 1 24
Textiles and Printing 54 2 0 14
Pulp and Paper 48 2 4 9
Construction Premises 49 0 0 9

Order analysis

Table 2: Most commonly issued orders under the OHSA and Industrial Regulations
Reason for Order Number of Orders Percentage total Orders Issued
Failure to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [OHSA S. 25(1)(b)] 266 8.15%
Failure to ensure that a lifting device is thoroughly examined by a competent person to determine its capacity of handling the maximum load as rated [Industrial Reg. S. 51(1)(b)] 189 5.79%
Failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [OHSA S. 25(2)(h)] 169 5.18%
Failure to post copy of the OHSA [OHSA S. 25(2)(i)] 124 3.8%
Failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of a worker [OHSA S. 25(2)(a)] 105 3.22%
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] 93 2.85%
Failure to ensure material that may tip and fall and endanger any worker is secured against tipping or falling [Industrial Reg. S. 46] 93 2.85%
Failure to prepare and review at least annually a written occupational health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy [OHSA S. 25(2)(j)] 85 2.60%
Failure to ensure that materials are transported, placed, or stored so that the materials will not tip, collapse or fall, and can be removed or withdrawn without endangering the safety of any worker [Industrial Reg. S. 45(b)] 83 2.54%
Failure to prevent access to moving parts of equipment that may endanger a worker [Industrial Reg. S. 24] 82 2.51%

As part of checking for worker training and appropriate supervision in workplaces 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 (4.5 per cent)
  • basic occupational health and safety awareness training for supervisors (3.4 per cent)

The 130 stop work orders represented (3.9) per cent of all the orders issued.

No orders were issued for failure to comply with minimum age requirements under the industrial regulations.


The number of orders issued per workplace was slightly higher than previous blitzes in the industrial sector. This indicates workers continue to be exposed to material handling hazards.

Continued enforcement is needed to improve the health and safety of workers involved in material handling tasks at workplaces.

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

  • informed, instructed and supervised as required and
  • working in accordance with the OHSA requirements

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.

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. Workplace parties' compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS in the workplace.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards involving material handling.

Compliance help for employers

Please contact our safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards.

View health and safety awareness products and training for workplace parties.

[1] According to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) data.

[2] WSIB data