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Preventing Infectious Diseases on Construction Projects

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: March 2012
  • Content last reviewed: June 2020

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.

Protecting workers is part of the government's commitment to prevent workplace injuries and diseases through its Safe At Work Ontario Strategy.

Construction workers are often at risk from exposure to infectious diseases on construction projects due to poor sanitary conditions associated with toilets and clean-up facilities.

Poor sanitation is a major cause of disease and can be a serious occupational health risk.

Infectious disease prevention and control are to be maintained on construction projects through adequate sanitary conditions and adherence to good hygiene practices.

General duties of workplace parties

Protecting workers from infectious diseases on construction projects

It is the responsibility of all workplace parties including constructors, employers and suppliers to ensure compliance  with the provisions of the OHSA and the regulations in order to protect workers from hazards in the workplace including the protection of workers from infectious diseases due to inadequate sanitation on construction projects.

Construction employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to ensure that every reasonable precaution in the circumstance is taken for the protection of workers (clause 25(2) (h)) of the OHSA.

Employers must report all occupational diseases to the Ministry of Labour and the workplace's Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) as required by Subsection 52(2) of the OHSA.

Employers are also required, by clause 25(2) (a) of the OHSA, to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker. This includes, and is not limited to, information and instruction and supervision about infectious diseases and associated hazards and health risks.

Constructors must ensure that, in accordance with section 29 of the Construction Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91), toilets, urinals and clean-up facilities are provided or arranged for workers before work starts at a project and that there is reasonable access to them.

Suppliers have a duty under section 31 of the OHSA, to provide toilets and clean-up facilities that are in good condition and that comply with section 29.1 of the Construction Regulation.

Safe work practices

Constructors

Toilets

  • Provide (or make arrangements for) water flush toilets that are connected to a sanitary sewer, or chemical flush toilets that are not connected to a sanitary sewer.
  • Ensure that minimum numbers of toilets as prescribed per number of workers regularly employed at the project are provided, and separate facilities for female workers are provided, unless the facilities are intended to be used by only one worker at a time.
  • Ensure an adequate number of urinals are provided. Subsection 29.1(6) of the Construction Regulation provides the number of urinals that can replace toilets if the facilities are only to be used by males. Ensure that facilities are serviced as often as required. (One week intervals may not be sufficient in warm weather or when larger numbers of workers are present at a project).

Clean-up facilities

  • Provide an adequate number of clean-up facilities, as prescribed and ensure that they are equipped with wash basins, with both hot and cold running water where reasonably possible, paper towels and receptacle or a hand dryer.
  • In cases where it is not reasonably possible to provide running water, it is permissible to use hand cleanser that can be used without water, paper towels (and receptacle) or a hand dryer.

Notes:

  1. Although this is a fact-specific determination to be made by an inspector at a workplace, it is the position of the Ministry of Labour that clean-up facilities complete with hot and cold water (or [ 1 ]warm water) are, as a general matter, reasonable to provide by Constructors in almost all construction projects.
  2. Where it is not reasonably possible to have a wash basin with running water at a clean-up facility, the workplace parties, namely the constructor and employer must provide the rationale as to why “it is not reasonably possible”
  3. Your attention is drawn to the requirement of s. 30 for washing facilities with clean water, soap and individual towels when workers handle or use corrosive, poisonous or other substances likely to endanger their health, namely cement, vitreous fibers or other controlled products whose material safety data sheet require washing with water and soap after the use of the product.

Toilet and Clean-up Facilities

  • Ensure that the facilities are adequately heated (if possible), ventilated, illuminated and kept in good condition at all times.
  • Ensure that facilities are regularly serviced, cleaned and sanitized.
  • Keep records of when they were serviced, cleaned and sanitized.

Employers

  • Inform, instruct and supervise workers on proper procedures when using the facilities and the importance of hand washing and sanitary conditions.
  • Ensure that workers follow proper procedures and report hazards.
  • Advise workers on the dangers to health and safety and hazards, health risks and infectious diseases associated with poor hand hygiene and poor sanitation of toilet facilities.

Supervisors

  • Ensure on behalf of their employer that the construction projects have adequate facilities and they are adequately serviced and sanitized
  • Advise workers on the dangers to health and safety and hazards, health risks and infectious diseases associated with poor hand hygiene and poor sanitation of toilet facilities

Workers

  • Follow safe practices and good personal hygiene
  • Report any unsafe condition to their supervisor

Construction Health & Safety Program (CHSP) and stakeholder engagement

  • There is a renewed commitment among industry stakeholders in our sector to improve sanitary conditions on construction projects and to achieve better compliance with the OHSA and the Construction Regulation.
  • The Ministry has been working with the Ontario Association of Sewage Industry Services (OASIS) and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) to educate and inform suppliers and contractors of their respective responsibilities under the OHSA and the Construction Regulation.

More information

More information about Infectious Diseases and the Enforcement Strategy and Compliance on construction projects can be found at the following links:

Construction site health and safety during COVID-19

Read more about Ontario's Safe At Work Ontario strategy to improve workplace safety

Ministry of Labour, Construction Safety

Call toll-free

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, for general inquiries about workplace health and safety.

[ 1 ] Where electrical power is not available, the use of warm water is permissible in lieu of providing hot and cold running water.

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.