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Safety Around Heavy Equipment

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: October 9, 2015
  • Content last reviewed: October 2015

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 are at risk of injuries, or even death, if hazards exist when operating, maintaining, or working around heavy equipment at construction projects.

Incidents can be prevented by ensuring heavy equipment is:

  • properly operated and maintained
  • used as per manufacturers’ operating manuals
  • equipped with readily available manufacturers’ operating manuals
  • operated by competent workers with a clear view of the pathway for the equipment or load
  • operated with the help of a competent signaller who does not perform any other work while signalling
  • in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements, including any required National Standards of Canada standards
  • in compliance with all applicable requirements in the Regulations for Roll-Over Protective Structures (O. Reg. 856)

Employers are responsible for protecting workers from hazards involving operation of vehicles and mobile construction equipment at construction projects.

Hazards include workers being:

  • struck by moving equipment
  • crushed between equipment and other objects
  • subjected to electrical contact while operating a vehicle or equipment
  • struck by an inadequately secured load while being lifted or moved
  • struck or crushed by equipment tipping over

Between January 1 and August 31, 2015, nine workers were killed in incidents at construction sites. Seven of those fatalities involved heavy equipment.

In two cases a mast climber collapsed. In another two cases, tip overs occurred – one involving a crane and the other a power-elevated work platform. Another fatality occurred during installation of heavy machinery. In yet another fatality, a dump truck lost control. In August, a worker was crushed between the guardrails of the power elevated work platform he was using and structural steel.

In 2014, six workers were killed by moving vehicles or equipment, two of whom were signalmen who were killed in separate incidents by vehicles they were directing.

Some general duties of workplace parties

Constructors, employers, supervisors and workers have a number of duties and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Regulations for Construction Projects.


Constructors’ duties and responsibilities include:

  • planning and organizing projects to avoid or reduce the reversing of equipment, machines and vehicles [Construction Reg. s. 104]
  • ensuring operators of vehicles, machines or equipment on a project are assisted by a signaller if the equipment operator’s view of the intended pathway is limited or obstructed, or if a person could be endangered by the vehicle, machine or equipment or by its load [Construction Reg. s. 103]
  • ensuring workers wear high visibility clothing if they are exposed to vehicle traffic [Construction Reg. s. 69]
  • establishing written procedures to be followed at the project in an emergency, reviewing those procedures with the project’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative (HSR) (whichever applies), and ensuring those procedures are followed in an emergency [Construction Reg. s. 17]
  • ensuring workers’ health and safety is protected [OHSA s. 23(1)(c)]


Employers’ duties and responsibilities include:

  • providing information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety [OHSA s. 25(2)(a)]
  • ensuring vehicle operators and signallers are competent and that a signaller does not perform any other work while signalling [Construction Reg. s. 96 and 106]
  • taking every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect workers [OHSA s. 25(2)(h)]
  • ensuring equipment is operated and maintained as per manufacturer’s instructions [Construction Reg. s. 93]
  • ensuring appointed supervisors are competent [OHSA s. 25(2)(c)]
  • ensuring required measures and procedures are carried out in the workplace [OHSA s. 25(1)(c)]
  • ensuring required equipment, materials and protective devices are provided and maintained in good condition [OHSA s. 25(1)(a) and (b)]


Supervisors’ duties and responsibilities include:

  • ensuring workers work in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by the OHSA and its regulations [OHSA s. 27(1)(a)]
  • ensuring any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer is worn/used by workers [OHSA s. 27(1)(b)]
  • advising workers of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor [OHSA s. 27(2)(a)]
  • providing workers with any prescribed written instructions about measures and procedures to be taken for the workers’ protection [OHSA s. 27(2)(b)]
  • taking every reasonable precaution in the circumstances for workers’ protection [OHSA s. 27(2)(c)]
  • supervising workers’ work at all times either personally or by having a competent assistant do so personally [Construction Reg. s. 14]
  • inspecting, at least once a week or more frequently, all machinery and equipment, communication systems, and means of access and egress at the project to ensure no worker is endangered [Construction Reg. s. 14]


Workers’ duties include:

  • wearing appropriate personal protective equipment [OHSA s. 28(1)(b)]
  • using/operating equipment in a safe manner [OHSA s. 28(2)(b)]
  • reporting any defects in equipment to your supervisor or employer [OHSA s. 28(1)(c)]
  • working in compliance with the OHSA and its regulations [OHSA s. 28(1)(a)]
  • reporting any known workplace hazards or OHSA violations to your supervisor or employer [OHSA s. 28(1)(d)]
  • knowing your OHSA rights, including the right to refuse unsafe work [OHSA s. 43(3)(a) to (c)]

Protecting workers

Employers, supervisors and trainers should encourage workers to communicate any questions or concerns they may have about equipment hazards. Supervisors or others involved in training workers should be familiar with any health and safety concerns affecting the workers.

More information

Call toll-free

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general questions about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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.