Sector summary

This subsector of government includes municipal and other firefighting services. A Section 21 Committee created under section 21 of the Occupational health and safety Act has been established that develops guidance materials to address health and safety issues in this sector. Information related to the Section 21 Committee can be found at the webpage Section 21 | Guidance for Improving Health and Safety in the Fire service.

Key hazards

The following list represents hazards to which workers are commonly exposed in the fire-fighting sector:

  • falls: aerial devices, ladder trucks, boom truck, and bucket trucks
  • fire and oxygen deficient atmospheres
  • traffic protection
  • occupational illness (from exposures)
  • confined space entry.

In general, hazards that are not covered by a regulation and hazards in workplaces not covered by a sector-specific regulation are addressed through the application of the general duty clause 25 (2)(h) of the Occupational health and safety Act (OHSA).

Workplace parties should refer to the narrative portion of the field visit report, if they have received one, for further information or contact their health and safety association  for guidance.

In addition to any other hazards which may be present in a workplace, all employers covered by the OHSA must comply with the requirements for workplace violence and harassment. The act sets out requirements for workplace violence and harassment in sections 32.0.1 to 32.0.8. Further information regarding the requirements related to workplace violence can be found in the Ministry of Labour (MOL) guide Workplace violence and harassment: Understanding the law.

Additional information, including more information about new workplace harassment provisions, can be found on the MOL topic webpages for Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment. Employers may wish to consider the use of the ministry’s Code of Practice to Address Workplace Harassment under the OHSA.

Falls: aerial devices, ladder trucks, boom truck, and bucket trucks

Injuries to workers can include fractures, lacerations and loss of consciousness.

In extreme circumstances injuries that result in inadvertent contact with an energy source or high elevation fall can lead to permanent disability or death.

  • Review working at heights policy and procedures.
  • Ensure compliance with requirements for fall protection.
  • Ensure that workers have been trained on the care and use of the fall arrest equipment.
  • Ensure that ladders are used safely.
  • Review instruction and information provided to a worker on the hazards associated with working from heights (aerial device operation) [OHSA clauses 25(2)(a) and 25(2)(d)].

Fire and oxygen-deficient atmospheres

Injuries from fire, explosion or lack of oxygen can include burns, lacerations, fractures and loss of consciousness.

In extreme circumstances, injuries can lead to permanent disability (amputation, loss of vision/hearing) or death (severe burns, explosive force and asphyxiation).

  • Review compliance with the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided to a worker to protect the worker from the hazard of fire and oxygen-deficient atmospheres [OHSA clause 25(2)(h)].
  • Review the training provided to a worker on the care, use and limitations of the PPE provided [OHSA clauses 25(2)(a) and 25(2)(d)] and Regulation 851, section 79].
  • Review storage location and condition of the PPE [OHSA clause 25(1)(b)].

Traffic protection

Injuries to workers can include fractures, lacerations and loss of consciousness.

Injuries can occur when workers are struck by or come into contact with motorized equipment or vehicles in a workplace.

Where vehicles or motorized equipment are present:

  • review locations where pedestrians and vehicles may be present in a workplace.
  • ensure that controls are in place to adequately protect workers from vehicles and motorized equipment.

A comprehensive program to protect workers may include an assessment of the risks and implementation of measures and procedures appropriate in the circumstances, such as warning lights, signs, signallers, barriers and worker training. The use of reflective clothing appropriate for the circumstances is also important. Workplace parties may wish to refer to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard CSA Z96-15 which contains performance criteria for high visibility garments. CSA Standard Z96-15 - High-visibility safety apparel is available through the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Occupational Illness

If an employer is informed that a worker has an occupational illness or that a claim for an occupational illness has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the employer must notify a director of the Ministry of Labour, the joint health and safety committee (or health and safety representative) and the union, if any, within four days.

  • This notice must be in writing and must contain any prescribed information [OHSA subsection 52(2)].
  • The duty to notify applies not only to current workers of the employer but also to former ones [OHSA subsection 52(3)].

Occupational asthma

  • Review engineering controls and the effective use of adequate and properly fitted PPE.
  • Review the training provided to a worker on the care, use and limitations of the PPE.

Heat stress

Heat stress can cause heat related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

  • Review engineering/administrative controls related to ventilation and heat reduction, policy and procedures (hot weather plan), work and rest practices and PPE to protect the worker [OHSA clause 25(2)(h)].

Occupational Cancers

  • Review workplace hazards that could expose a worker to a known or suspected carcinogen.

Confined space

A confined space means a fully or partially enclosed space that is not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy, and in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of work that is done in it.

Injuries to workers can include loss of consciousness and collateral injuries sustained as a result of loss of consciousness.

In some circumstances such as oxygen depletion, toxic substance inhalation or explosive atmosphere, injuries to workers can lead to permanent disability or death.

The Regulation for Confined Spaces (O. Reg. 632/05) sets out workplace requirements regarding confined spaces.

  • Review work locations that meet the definition of confined space.
  • Ensure compliance with the requirement to have a program in place for confined spaces [section 5].
  • Ensure compliance with the requirement to have adequate assessments of confined spaces carried out [section 6].
  • Ensure compliance with requirement to have an adequate plan developed and implemented for confined space entry [section 7].
  • Review compliance with requirement for worker training [section 9].


Table 1: Fatalities and critical injuries in fire services by fiscal year
Critical injuries510363
  • Only critical injury events reported to the ministry are included here.
  • These represent data that were reported to the ministry and may not represent what actually occurred at the workplace.
  • The critical injury numbers represent critical injuries reported to the ministry and not necessarily critical injuries as defined by the Occupational health and safety Act.
  • Non-workers who are critically injured may also be included in the ministry’s data.
  • The Ministry of Labour tracks and reports fatalities at workplaces covered by the OHSA. This excludes death from natural causes, death of non-workers at a workplace, suicides, death as a result of a criminal act or traffic accident (unless the OHSA is also implicated) and death from occupational exposures that occurred many years ago.
  • Data are subject to change because of inspectors’ updates to the database.
Table 2: Events and activities in fire services by fiscal year
Events and activities2012-132013-142014-152015-162016-17
Field visits104846810697
Work refusals10000

Most common orders issued under the OHSA

From April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, the most common orders issued by the Ministry of Labour under the OHSA were:

  • An employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [clause 25(2)(h)].
  • An employer shall ensure that, the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [clause 25(1)(b)].
  • An employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker [clause 25(2)(a)].
  • Orders issued to an employer related to workplace violence and harassment provisions [sections 32.0.1 through 32.0.8].

Most common orders issued under the Industrial Regulations

From April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, the most common orders issued by the Ministry of Labour under Regulation 851 were:

  • Electrical equipment insulating materials and conductors shall be suitable for their use [clause 40(a)].
  • Cord connected electrical equipment and tools shall have a casing that is adequately grounded [subsection 44(1)].
  • A lifting device shall, be thoroughly examined by a competent person to determine its capability of handling the maximum load as rated, prior to being used for the first time, and thereafter as often as necessary but not less frequently than recommended by the manufacturer and in any case, at least once a year, and a permanent record shall be kept, signed by the competent person doing the examination [clause 51(1)(b)].

Industrial Regulations identified by section

Inspectors may issue orders in the fire sector under the following sections of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments where appropriate.

  • Section 11 – safe work surfaces
  • Sections 13 and 14 – guardrails
  • Section 45 – material handling and storage
  • Section 49 – compressed gas cylinders
  • Clause 51(1)(a) – examination of lifting device
  • Clause 51(1)(b) – maximum rated load plainly marked on lifting device
  • Section 73 – portable ladder
  • Section 79 – personal protective equipment instruction
  • Section 80 – head protection
  • Section 81 – eye protection
  • Section 82 – foot protection
  • Section 85 – fall arrest

Applicable regulations

General resources

Publications | Ministry of Labour

For information and Guides, Fact Sheets, Information Bulletins, Guidelines, Alerts, Engineering Data Sheets, Extracts, Reports, Consultations, Codes, and Standards.

Videos and photos | Ministry of Labour

To view Ministry of Labour videos and photos.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder | Ministry of Labour

What is Bill 163, the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, 2016?

Health and Safety Partners

To learn about sector-assigned health and safety associations.

By the numbers: WSIB statistical report

To review Workplace safety and insurance board (WSIB) injury experience data.