Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, (OHSA) “construction” is defined as including erection, alteration, repair, dismantling, demolition, structural maintenance, painting, land clearing, earth moving, grading, excavating, trenching, digging, boring, drilling, blasting or concreting, installing any machinery or plant, and any work or undertaking in connection with a project but does not include any work or undertaking in an underground mine.

Under the act, “project” is defined as meaning a construction project, whether public or private, including:

  • the construction of a building, bridge, structure, industrial establishment, mining plant, shaft, tunnel, caisson, trench, excavation, highway, railway, street, runway, parking lot, cofferdam, conduit, sewer, watermain, service connection, telegraph, telephone or electrical cable, pipe line, duct or well, or any combination thereof
  • the moving of a building or structure
  • any work or undertaking, or any lands or appurtenances used in connection with construction

Construction inspectors enforce compliance with the legislation at construction projects across the province. As part of the Safe At Work Ontario strategy, they focus on construction sectors with high injury rates, a history of non-compliance and known workplace hazards.

Construction health and safety initiatives

In 2017-18, the Construction Program health and safety initiatives aimed at supervisor awareness and accountability, residential projects and falls – ladder safety.

Supervisor awareness and accountability

The employer is usually not present at the construction site every day. Supervisors are the employer’s representative on a construction project. The OHSA defines a supervisor, as meaning a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker and requires a supervisor to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. Supervisor responsibilities under the OHSA include:

  • providing a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for protection of the worker
  • giving advice and direction to workers on actual or potential hazards
  • ensuring workers wear required personal protective equipment
  • ensuring workers follow safe work practices, under the OHSA

To adequately protect workers’ health and safety, when appointing a supervisor, the employer must appoint a “competent person.” The OHSA defines “competent person” as meaning a person who:

  • is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,
  • is familiar with this OHSA and the regulations that apply to the work, and
  • has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace

Inspectors visited construction sites from June 1 to July 31, 2017, to check that supervisors:

  • had taken the mandatory training programs
  • were familiar with the OHSA and their supervisory responsibilities
  • were competent
  • were informing workers of potential or actual hazards
  • were conducting routine onsite inspections
  • ensured workers used the required personal protective

The results of the initiative showed that the role of a supervisor is an important part of the Internal Responsibility System. Employers, supervisors, workers, joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives must to work together to identify and control hazards on construction projects.

Ministry inspectors will continue to focus on unsafe work practices, including inadequate supervision.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—1,595
  • workplaces visited—1,428
  • orders and requirements issued—3,903
  • stop work orders—292
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.45
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—2.73


Residential projects

A residential construction project involves building or renovating a private residence.

Residential construction projects are an ongoing concern for the Ministry of Labour. Between 2012 and 2016, more than a third of all critical injuries in construction and almost half of all deaths were in the residential sector. Some factors include the presence of young and vulnerable workers, and not following health and safety laws.

The greatest safety hazards at residential construction projects are:

  • falls from heights
  • unsafe access/egress
  • poor “housekeeping” (cluttered sites)
  • being struck by, or crushed by, mobile equipment or material
  • becoming trapped due to excavation collapse
  • electrical shocks or burns

The ministry conducted a three-month health and safety initiative. Inspectors visited residential construction sites to check that employers were identifying and controlling hazards to protect workers. Special attention was paid to:

  • fall protection, such as guardrails, appropriate fall protection protective equipment and adequate tie off points
  • scaffolding assembly, use and disassembly
  • stacking of roof shingles
  • truss installation
  • proper use of ladders
  • ergonomic factors when moving heavy materials
  • heavy equipment operation, including line-of-sight hazards
  • control of exposure to chemical and biological agents (such as lead, silica and carbon monoxide)

The results of the initiative showed that fall protection needs to be improved to better protect workers from critical injuries and death. The ministry will continue to raise awareness of hazards on residential construction projects in Ontario.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—1,406
  • workplaces visited—1,192
  • orders and requirements issued—4,223
  • stop work orders—352
  • orders and requirements per field visit—3
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—3.54


Falls – ladder safety

Improperly using ladders on construction projects is a major cause of workplace injuries in Ontario. Ladders are used throughout the construction industry. If they are not used or maintained properly, workers can fall. Improper body positioning while working from a ladder can cause musculoskeletal injuries.

The ministry conducted a two-month inspection health and safety initiative to check:

  • that ladders are used according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • the condition of equipment
  • its set up and use
  • proper body positioning

The ministry will continue to raise awareness of falls hazards and proper ladder use in Ontario workplaces.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—577
  • workplaces visited—538
  • orders and requirements issued—1,574
  • stop work orders—93
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.73
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—2.93


Provincial construction enforcement initiatives

During 2017-18, the ministry conducted provincial enforcement initiatives in the construction sector on noise, “stuck by” hazards and fall protection.


Noise is a serious health hazard and a leading cause of occupational disease in Ontario. Over time, if noise is not properly eliminated or controlled, it can cause permanent hearing loss.

There is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, but it can be prevented by eliminating the source or controlling the level of sound.

Inspectors visited construction workplaces from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, to check that workers were protected from hazardous sound levels. Special attention was paid to:

  • sources of noise
  • warning signs
  • engineering controls
  • personal protective equipment (hearing protection devices)
  • the condition of hearing protection devices
  • worker training on protective devices

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—1,030
  • workplaces visited—958
  • orders and requirements issued—2,106
  • stop work orders—117
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.04
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—2.2


“Struck by” hazards

“Struck by” hazards are present at construction sites where heavy equipment, mobile equipment or vehicles are operated. Hazards that workers could be exposed to include:

  • being struck by or run over by vehicles and mobile construction equipment
  • being struck by other equipment and objects
  • being struck by material moved by construction equipment

In 2017-2018, the ministry conducted a “struck by” initiative focused on the hazards of working around large equipment, material being moved by equipment at construction projects and road construction traffic control. Inspectors paid special attention to:

  • project planning and organization to reduce the need for reverse operation of vehicles
  • traffic control plans for road construction
  • training of signal persons and equipment operators
  • use and care of high visibility clothing
  • ensuring dump trucks are equipped with an automatic audible alarm when operated in reverse
  • safe movement of material and equipment

The initiative reinforced the need for adequate equipment and traffic safety control programs due to the high hazard and high-risk nature of working around heavy equipment and vehicle traffic.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—1,822
  • workplaces visited—1,596
  • orders and requirements issued—3,158
  • stop work orders—201
  • orders and requirements per field visit—1.73
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—1.98


Fall protection

In 2015, the ministry implemented a workplace training standard to prevent falls and improve safety for workers working at heights. Certain workers must complete a working-at-heights training program approved by the Chief Prevention Officer. Workers on construction projects must complete the working-at-heights training if they use the following methods fall protection:

  • travel restraint systems
  • fall restricting systems
  • fall arrest systems
  • safety nets
  • work belts
  • safety belts

In addition, workers must have specific hands-on training on the project’s hazards and fall protection system to be used and be given adequate spoken and written instruction by a competent person.

In 2017-2018, ministry inspectors conducted a fall protection initiative to check:

  • working-at-heights training
  • Ontario Regulation 213/91: Construction Projects, section 26.2(1) training requirements
  • fall protection pre-planning
  • the condition, maintenance and inspection of fall protection equipment and devices
  • project emergency response and rescue plan

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—577
  • workplaces visited—538
  • orders and requirements issued—1,574
  • stop work orders—93
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.73
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—2.93


Regional construction enforcement initiatives

Central West Region: Road construction projects

Motor vehicles are the top hazard that construction workers face when working on or near roadways. When a worker is struck by or run over by a vehicle this can cause serious injuries or death.

Inspectors from the Central West region visited roadway construction sites from May 1 to May 31, 2017. They focused on creating a safe work zone and training workers to work safely. Inspectors educated clients about:

  • developing a traffic protection plan, which:
    • describes vehicular traffic hazards and the measures to be used to protect workers
    • should be kept at the project and made available to an inspector or a worker on request
  • roles and responsibilities for workplace parties who may be exposed to traffic hazards
  • training workers to use personal protective equipment
  • implementing traffic protection plans
  • complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—21
  • workplaces visited—19
  • orders and requirements issued—29
  • stop work orders—93
  • orders and requirements per field visit—1.4
  • orders and requirements per workplace visited—1.5

Central West Region: Temporary labour agencies

The Regional Initiative for Temporary Agencies was a joint initiative between the ministry’s construction and industrial health and safety programs in Central West Region. Full details are included in the industrial section of this report.

Western Region: Electrical contact

The 2016-2018 Electrical Contact initiative was a partnership between the Electrical Safety Authority and Ministry of Labour. The goal of this initiative was to reduce the number of electrical fatalities, injuries and fires.

This targeted two-year enforcement initiative has resulted in:

  • increased awareness of working safely around electricity
  • improved compliance by employers and workers regarding their duties and responsibilities under the OHSA

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—561
  • orders and requirements issued—1,777
  • orders and requirements per field visit—3.16

Western Region: Utilities sector

The 2016-2018 Utilities Sector inspection initiative focused on the 27 local hydro distribution companies in the Western Region. The goal was to reduce hazards in the utility sector from:

  • traffic
  • working at heights
  • working close to electrical hazards

In 2017-18, the focus of the initiative was on enforcement and compliance. The ministry met with the local distribution companies to review compliance at their facilities as well as in the field.

Initiative activity summary

  • field visits—743
  • orders and requirements issued—1,511
  • orders and requirements per field visit—2.03