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Material Handling Hazards Focus of Workplace Safety Blitz

Ministry of Labour inspectors will target hazards involving material handling during a six-week enforcement blitz across Ontario in September and October 2014. They will check that employers, supervisors and workers are complying with requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Material handling includes activities such as loading, unloading, storage and movement of goods and supplies. These tasks are carried out either by hand or with the aid of mechanical devices or mobile equipment, such as forklifts and hoists, cranes and forklifts.

Workers can be seriously injured or even die as a result of hazards involving material handling.

In 2012, musculoskeletal disorders comprised 39 per cent of all injuries involving lost time at work, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Contact with objects and equipment (including struck by/struck against) accounted on average for more than 26 per cent of lost-time claims.

Together, these two types of injuries have consistently accounted for between 65 and 70 per cent of all lost time at work, according to the WSIB.


Examples of material handling hazards include:

  • Lifting loads improperly or carrying loads that are either too large or too heavy resulting in strains and sprains
  • Being struck by or caught between materials or being caught in pinch points resulting in fractures and bruises
  • Materials that fall or collapse when they have been improperly stored or when ties or other securing devices have been incorrectly cut or unfastened resulting in cuts, bruises and crushing type injuries
  • Contact with moving equipment, vehicles, lifting devices, and/or their unsecured loads that fall or collapse resulting in critical or fatal injuries
  • Same level falls and falls from heights when attempting to move, place, store or access materials in an unsafe manner resulting in critical or fatal injuries

The risk of back injury and muscular strains (musculoskeletal injuries/disorders) from lifting and moving heavy or bulky items of stock is common in workplaces that handle materials on a regular basis.

Incidents where workers are either "struck-by" and/or "crushed" by being hit, struck, or crushed by tools, materials, equipment, or vehicles may result in serious injuries.

Blitz Focus

  • 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

The blitz will also target 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

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.


  • Lift-trucks and other lifting devices: Inspectors will check that employers have lift-trucks and other lifting devices (including associated hardware and rigging equipment) rated for their loads and that they are well-maintained.
  • Workplace layout/design: Inspectors will verify employers are providing safe and appropriate access to work areas. They will also check that workers/pedestrians are not endangered by mobile equipment or the movement of materials at the workplace.
  • Manual handling procedures: Inspectors will check that employers have ensured workers perform tasks and interact with their workplace in a manner to prevent musculoskeletal injury and the risk of slips, trips and/or falls.
  • Mobile/transport equipment: Inspectors will check that employers have made sure equipment is appropriate for use, well-maintained and safe practices are being followed (e.g. safe load securement procedures and workplace traffic management plans).
  • Storage systems: Inspectors will check that employers ensure materials are placed or stored in a manner that will not endanger workers, and that they can be removed or withdrawn without endangering workers' safety. This will include a focus on bulk, rack, and automated or unitizing/palletizing equipment processes/practices.
  • Internal Responsibility System (IRS): Inspectors will check and evaluate workplaces’ IRS to confirm required health and safety representatives or Joint Health and Safety Committees are in place, where appropriate, and are functioning as required by the OHSA. As well, they will check for policies that outline the roles of workplace parties for ensuring their workplaces remain free of all hazards.
  • Worker training: Inspectors will check that employers are providing information and instruction to workers to perform assigned tasks.
  • Workplace supervision: Inspectors will check that employers are providing supervision to workers, as required by the OHSA.

Craig MacBride, Minister’s Office, 416-326-7709
Bruce Skeaff, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405
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