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.
Incidents while performing electrical work can result in critical injuries and even death to workers at construction sites. These hazards can be prevented by following safe work practices and procedures.
Between November 1 and December 31, 2016, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz at construction sites across Ontario. They focused on electrical hazards as well as ergonomics-related hazards involving specific tasks that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or falls as a result of the unsafe use of ladders when doing electrical work.
The blitz was part of an overall strategy to eliminate injuries and fatalities while completing electrical work at construction projects.
The goals of the blitz were to:
Workers are at serious risk if they make contact with energized equipment or a conductor. The primary hazard to workers working on or near energized electrical equipment, installations and distribution systems is that of electric shock and or arc flash burn.
Ergonomics-related hazards can also result in injuries or fatalities to workers performing electrical work. MSDs can result from ongoing exposure to tasks such as repetitive work, forceful exertions, heavy lifting and carrying, and awkward postures. Injuries or fatalities can also occur due to falls as a result of the unsafe use of ladders that result in a worker not maintaining their balance.
During the blitz MOL inspectors checked specifically for hazards related to electrical work at construction projects and checked that employers were taking appropriate action to assess and address these hazards to protect workers’ safety. This included checking that employers, supervisors, and workers were complying with the:
Workers can be at serious risk of injury or death if they make contact with or work in proximity to energized equipment or a conductor. Incidents involving electrical hazards can be prevented by ensuring the risk of electrical shock and possible burns is identified and controlled in the workplace.
Under the OHSA, all workplace parties – including employers, supervisors and workers – must play a role to reduce the risk of electrical contact. This includes identifying the electrical hazard, complying with regulatory requirements, and establishing and following safe work procedures.
In particular, employers must:
If it is not practical for a worker to maintain a safe distance, the employer must put in place controls to mitigate the risk of electrical hazards. The best measure is to de-energize an electrical system.
If de-energizing is not practical, employers must ensure workers:
A major safety issue involves working on or near energized exposed parts of electrical equipment, installations or conductors. This type of work is only allowed under prescribed and controlled conditions outlined in Section 191 of the Regulations for Construction Projects. This includes:
If it is not practical to disconnect an electrical system:
Powerline technicians may work on or near energized utility transmission and distribution systems and apparatus if they are:
In November and December 2016, ministry inspectors conducted 1,108 field visits to 998 workplaces and issued 2,801 orders and 24 requirements.This included 173 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited more than once.
In November and December 2016, ministry inspectors conducted 1,108 field visits to 998 workplaces and issued 2,801 orders and 24 requirements1].This included 173 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited more than once.
The five most commonly issued orders were for violations involving:
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.
Inspectors focused on the key priorities below. They checked that:
|Number of workplaces visited||998|
|Total orders and requirements issued||2,825|
|Stop work orders||173|
|Orders and requirements per workplace visited||2.83|
|Orders and requirement per visit||2.55|
|Reason for order||Number of orders||Percentage of total orders|
|PPE Head Protection: Every worker must wear protective headwear at all times when on a project||240||8.6|
|Fall protection: missing guardrail or other fall protection||161||5.7|
|Lack of emergency procedures or failure to post the procedures in a conspicuous place on the project||75||2.7|
|Failure to file a Notice of Project when required by legislation||73||2.6|
|Failure to ensure electrical equipment, installations, conductors and insulating materials are suitable for their intended use and installed, maintained, modified and operated so they don’t pose a hazard to a worker||72||2.6|
|Legislation / Regulation||Number||Percentage of total orders|
|Regulations for Construction Projects||2,496||89.1|
|Occupational Health and Safety Act||289||10.3|
|Roll-Over Protective Structures, Noise, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Occupational Health and Safety Awareness, Asbestos on Construction Projects and In Buildings and Repair Operations||16||0.6|
A total of 2,801 orders were issued during the blitz:
In addition, 24 requirements (not counted in the total number of orders) were issued under the OHSA.
Most of the orders issued under the Regulations for Construction Projects were for violations involving:
Seventy-two orders (2.6 per cent of total orders) were related to electrical safety, which was the focus of this blitz.
A stop work order is issued when a situation could post an immediate hazard/danger to a worker. Stop work orders require a specific activity to stop at a workplace.
During the blitz, 173 stop work orders were issued under the OHSA. They were accompanied by 287 other orders requiring a specific activity to take place to remedy the issue involving the stop work orders.
Of the violations related to the stop work orders:
The results of this blitz indicate employers need to be more vigilant in complying with requirements for PPE on construction sites.
The blitz also indicates employers need to comply with fall protection requirements to protect workers.
The Ministry of Labour has worked to improve compliance by conducting blitzes targeting falls hazards in the construction sector in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
The Ministry of Labour will continue to enforce safety requirements for working on or near electrical systems, equipment and installations.
For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards, please contact the Ministry of Labour’s safety partners.
 A requirement is issued under the OHSA when an inspector needs more information to assess compliance. By comparison, an order is issued when an inspector determines there is a violation of the legislation or regulations
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.