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Blitz Results: Heavy Equipment Operation 2015

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: April 25, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: April 2016

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.

Workers continue to be at risk when operating, maintaining and working around heavy equipment on construction sites. They can be injured or killed when struck by vehicles, equipment or their loads.

In October and November 2015, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz at construction sites across Ontario. The inspectors focused on the dangers of operating and working around heavy equipment and vehicles.

Inspectors checked that employers were taking appropriate action to assess and address these hazards and protect workers’ safety. This included checking that employers were complying with the:

The goals of the blitz were to:

  • raise awareness of key health and safety hazards related to operating and working around heavy equipment at construction sites
  • increase workplace compliance with the law and
  • prevent injuries and illness that could arise from unsafe work practices


Any incident involving heavy equipment has the potential to be very serious or result in a fatality.

Between 2009 and 2014, 23 per cent of worker deaths at construction sites involved heavy equipment, including inadvertent contact with powerlines and equipment striking or tipping over a worker.

Heavy equipment is any:

  • large motorized heavy machinery or vehicle or
  • heavy non-motorized unit such as an attachment, trailer or container.

Heavy machinery is used for lifting, excavation, smoothing ground, removing dirt, raising workers and other functions. This includes excavators, loaders, bulldozers, backhoes, graders, cranes, forklifts and power-elevated work platforms.

Heavy vehicles can travel longer distances and are used for transporting earth, mixing concrete, raising workers and equipment to extended heights and other functions. They include dump, tractor, boom and concrete mixer trucks.

Attachments complement heavy equipment and are removable. They include loader buckets, excavator shears and loader forks.

Trailers are mobile containers pulled by vehicles such as trucks.

Containers are closed or semi-closed structures designed to house construction material or other things. A container can be a single unit such as storage container or a piece of equipment generally connected to a truck such as dump boxes, concrete mixers and truck cisterns.

Report summary

In October and November 2015, ministry inspectors conducted 1,128 field visits to 967 workplaces and issued 2,277 orders under the OHSA and construction regulations. This included 201 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited more than once.

The three most commonly issued orders involved a failure of employers to:

  • ensure workers were protected from falls (261 orders or 11.5 per cent of total orders)
  • ensure workers used personal protective equipment when required (189 orders or 8.3 per cent of total orders)
  • establish and post written emergency procedures in a conspicuous place on a construction project (94 orders or 4.1 per cent of total orders)

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 of inspectors’ visits. 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

Ministry inspectors visited construction projects where workers may be exposed to heavy equipment and vehicular traffic.

In particular, ministry inspectors visited construction projects:

  • valued at more than $50,000 in material and labour
  • identified as being high-priority due to potential hazards involving vehicle traffic and large equipment
  • where complaints have been received
  • where there is a poor compliance history

Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

Equipment requirements: Inspectors checked that equipment was being operated, inspected and maintained, as per manufacturers’ instructions and any other requirements. Inspectors also checked on compliance with regulatory requirements for entering and exiting an operator’s cabin, equipment maintenance and inspection records, operator’s qualifications and training, operator’s cabin maintenance and rollover protection.

Project planning: Inspectors checked that workplace parties had planned and organized the construction site to avoid or reduce the reverse operation of vehicles.

Safe movement: Inspectors checked that proper measures and procedures were in place for safe movement of material and equipment.

Signallers: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring signallers were competent and did not perform any other work when signalling.

High visibility clothing: Inspectors checked that high visibility clothing was being worn by signallers and workers at construction sites with vehicle traffic.

Dump truck alarms: Inspectors verified that dump trucks were equipped with automatic audible alarms when being operated in reverse.

Inspection activity summary

Table 1: Inspection Visits To Construction Projects
Program Activities Numbers
Field visits 1,128
Number of workplaces visited 967
Orders issued 2,321
Stop work orders 201
Requirements 44
Orders and requirements per workplace visited 2.40
Orders and requirement per visit 2.40

Order analysis

Table 2: Most commonly issued types of orders [1]
Reason for order Number of orders Percentage of total [2] orders during blitz
Fall protection: missing guardrails or other fall protection systems 261 11.5%
Personal protective equipment (excluding fall protection): missing or inadequate safety hats, safety shoes, safety glasses 189 8.3%
Written emergency procedures: non-existent or not posted written emergency procedures by constructors 94 4.1%
Notices of Project: not filed by constructors 57 2.5%
Manufacturers’ operating manuals: missing copies on the project for vehicles, machines, tools and equipment rated at more than 10 horsepower 45 2.0%

[1] contains sampling of some common order sections
[2] all orders including those under OHSA and Regulations for Construction Projects

Table 3: Orders by type of legislation / regulation
Legislation / Regulation Number Percentage of total orders and requirements
Regulations for Construction Projects 1,923 84.4%
Occupational Health and Safety Act 392 [3] 15.3%
Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation 3 under 1%
Roll-Over Protective Structures Regulation 2 under 1%
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Regulation 1 under 1%

[3] includes 44 requirements and 201 stop work orders

Most orders issued under the construction regulations involved fall protection violations – in particular, employers’ failure to provide a guardrail system as a primary means of fall protection (Section 26.1), and around the open sides of a surface or floor (Section 26.3).

Almost 70 per cent of the personal protective equipment (PPE) orders (130 orders) involved missing or inadequate safety headgear. This comprised 5.6 per cent of all orders and requirements issued. More than 30 per cent of PPE orders (59 orders) were issued for lack of PPE, mostly involving safety footwear and then safety glasses.

About four per cent of the orders (94 orders) were for violations involving emergency procedures. Half of those orders involved contractors’ failure to have written emergency procedures for construction sites and the other half involved a failure to post emergency procedures.

About 2.5 per cent of orders (57 orders) involved a failure to file a Notice of Project with the Ministry of Labour. This requirement must be fulfilled by a constructor prior to commencing work at a project.

Another two per cent of orders (45 orders) related to a requirement for constructors to have available on the construction site copies of manufacturers’ operating manuals for tools, equipment and machinery rated at greater than 10 horsepower. This type of order directly related to the heavy equipment focus of this blitz.


The results of this blitz indicate workplace parties need to improve compliance with fall protection, PPE, emergency procedures and other requirements under the OHSA and construction regulations.

Employers, supervisors and workers must ensure appropriate fall protection and PPE are maintained and worn, as required, to help protect workers from injury. Contractors must also develop and post emergency procedures at the construction site.

Constructors must also file a Notice of Project with the ministry prior to starting work on a project.

They must also have copies of manuals available for tools, equipment and machinery at the construction site.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system. Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards involving heavy equipment and its operation at construction sites.

Next steps

Ministry inspectors will continue to pay attention to the areas of concern noted in the above order analysis and conclusion sections. This includes hazards that could result in workers being struck by vehicles, equipment or their loads.

To protect workers from these hazards, the ministry is also developing a Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Action Plan to address incidents involving vehicles and motorized mobile equipment on work sites. The goal is to reduce injuries and fatalities associated with vehicles and mobile equipment in Ontario workplaces across sectors.

The Action Plan will be supported by the ministry as well as all four Safe Work Associations: Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Public Services Health and Safety Association, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, and Workplace Safety North, as well as the Workers Health and Safety Centre.

Compliance help for employers

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

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.