Compliance blitz results: healthy workers in healthy workplaces
Results of a province-wide, cross-sector enforcement blitz that focused on musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards from September 1 to December 27, 2019.
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From September 1 to December 27, 2019, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) conducted a cross-sector blitz which focused on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and respiratory hazards. The blitz was organized in two phases.
The first phase focused on education, outreach and awareness where the MLTSD worked with our Health and Safety Association (HSA) partners to raise awareness and to provide training and resources to employers. The goal was to help employers comply with requirements about musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations before the start of inspections.
The blitz phase began October 1, 2019. Ministry inspectors conducted inspections to check that employers were complying with the OHSA and its regulations. In particular, inspectors checked that employers were taking appropriate action to assess and deal with MSDs and respiratory hazards and to protect workers.
All health and safety programs participated in this initiative including construction, health care, industrial and at underground and surface mines and mining plants.
From October 1 to December 27, 2019, inspectors:
- conducted 3,414 field visits with 466 support role activities
- visited 2,915 workplaces
- issued 7,219 orders and requirements under the OHSA and its regulations, including 373 stop work orders
Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations, including:
- writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to have them comply
- requiring employers to provide information to the inspector
- issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue
The goals of this cross-sector blitz were to:
- raise awareness of hazards
- increase workplace compliance with the law
- prevent injuries and illness that could arise from unsafe work practices
Workplace inspection blitzes
Inspection blitzes are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We announce to the sector, in advance, that we will be doing a blitz, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of the blitz are typically posted online within 90 days. Inspectors' findings may impact the number and level of future inspections of individual workplaces.
Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for help with compliance and training.
Beginning September 1, 2019, the ministry’s health and safety programs worked with their respective HSAs to provide training and education to employers and workers before the start of focused inspections.
All programs, in partnership with HSAs, conducted a webinar that outlined the blitz focus and topics, what to expect during an inspection and the importance of planning, training and supervision when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards. It also raised awareness of resources employers and workers can consult in order to achieve a safe workplace environment where MSDs and respiratory hazards are adequately controlled.
Musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and respiratory hazards continue to be significant hazards at construction projects, industrial and health care workplaces and at mines and mining plants across the province.
MSDs are the top lost time injury at work reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Ontario. In 2017, MSDs represented approximately one-third of all accepted WSIB lost time claims. There were over:
- 19,000 claims
- 462,000 days lost from work
- $72 million in direct WSIB costs
Between 2008 and 2017, long latency illnesses – illnesses in which there is a long delay between exposure to a disease-causing agent and the appearance of disease symptoms – accounted for the largest proportion of allowed WSIB benefit costs. 70 per cent of allowed long latency illness claims over the past 10 years come from: lung cancer, pleural plaques, mesothelioma, asbestosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which are all associated with respiratory exposures.
Cancer Care Ontario and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre estimate that exposure to asbestos, diesel engine exhaust, crystalline silica and welding fumes cause approximately 1,300 cancer cases a year in Ontario.
Hazards at workplaces can include:
- MSD hazards such as high forces, awkward postures and repetitive motions. These are commonly found when workers are required to lift, carry, push, pull or lower materials (manual material handling) or even other people (client handling)
- respiratory hazards during work processes that generate aerosols (for example, dusts, fumes and vapours)
- Hazardous chemicals (such as cleaning agents and preservatives) are a serious concern for health and community care workers
- Silica dust, fumes (welding fumes) and particulates (diesel exhaust) are a serious concern for industrial workplaces and workers
- Gases, dusts, vapours and fumes present at construction projects, such as silica dust from cutting and breaking concrete and fumes from welding activities, can pose serious health risks for construction workers
- Designated substances such as arsenic, asbestos, isocyanates, lead and silica are found in mines, mills and smelters
- Blasting gases and diesel emissions in underground mines produce carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and elemental/organic carbon and are a serious concern for workers in mines and mining plants
For the focus on MSD hazards, inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as whether:
- employers have provided training to workers on safe manual materials handling practices
- items are being manually handled in a safe manner
- items are being stored in a manner that does not endanger a worker when manually handling those items
- work areas and routes to and from work areas are kept free of obstructions so extra demands are not placed on workers when manually handling items
- access to and egress from a work area is appropriate so that physical demands are not increased
- adequate housekeeping is taking place so that a worker can use assistive devices (for example, carts) and there are not increased demands when manually handling items
- handling items while the worker is on a ladder is being performed in a safe manner
Most frequently issued orders
The most frequently issued orders under the Regulation for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91) during the blitz were:
- failure to provide adequate access to the work area (sections 45, 70-84) – 566 orders
- failure to protect workers from fall hazards (sections 26-26.9, 207, 233(4)) – 504 orders
- failure to ensure workers wear appropriate personal protective equipment – PPE (sections 21 – 25, 27, 69.1, 106 (1.1)) – 481 orders
- failure to ensure adequate housekeeping practices and material storage at the project (sections 35 – 42) – 136 orders
- failure to protect workers from electrical hazards (sections 181 -195) – 126 orders
Health care workplaces
For the focus on MSD hazards involving client handling, inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:
- equipment available for workers to assist them in moving clients, and workers are trained in using the equipment
- client handling equipment being used where required
- lifting equipment properly inspected, serviced and maintained as stated in the manufacturer’s instructions
- employers have written measures and procedures on:
- each individual lift, transfer and reposition
- client mobility assessments and documentation of status
- use of mechanical assists
- safe storage and maintenance of lift equipment and other mobility devices
- pre-use inspection of mechanical devices
- training to workers on client handling
For the focus on respiratory hazards, inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as whether:
- workers who handle hazardous chemicals (such as cleaning agents and preservatives) have been trained on how to use and dispose of them safely
- there are appropriate measures and procedures for the safe handling of hazardous chemicals
- there are suitable measures and procedures on managing spills of hazardous chemicals and drugs, and that spill kits are accessible and maintained
- areas where hazardous chemicals or dusts are used or generated have adequate ventilation and environmental controls to minimize worker exposures
- workers who require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for respiratory and facial protection:
- are trained on its use (including putting on and taking off PPE, disposal, equipment maintenance and hand hygiene)
- can freely access such equipment when required
- know when to access it
- health care workplaces that have asbestos-containing materials maintain a record as required under Ontario Regulation 278/05, section 8(3)
- Inspectors checked that employers in workplaces covered under the Health Care and Residential Facilities Regulation (O. Reg. 67/93), had in consultation with the joint health and safety committee, or health and safe representative, developed, established and provided training and educational programs in measures and procedures for workers on respiratory and client handling hazards.
Most frequently issued orders
During the blitz there were 96 orders issued under the OHSA and O. Reg. 67/93: Health Care and Residential Facilities. The most frequently issued orders were related to failure to:
- review and revise measures and procedures in light of current knowledge and practices at least once per year – (O. Reg. 67/93; 9(2)) - 17 orders
- take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (OHSA; 25(2)h) - 15 orders
- ensure equipment, materials and protective devices were maintained in good condition (OHSA; 25(1)(b)) - 9 orders
- provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect his or her health or safety (OHSA; 25(2)(a)) - 6 orders
- establish measures and procedures for the health and safety of workers in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (O. Reg. 67/93; 8) - 5 orders
Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as whether:
- proper controls and work practices are in place
- respirators are well maintained
- workers have been trained on how to use the respirators properly
- respirators are fitted to ensure an effective seal between the respirator and the worker’s face
- worker exposure to airborne concentrations of hazardous biological or chemical agents are under the occupational exposure limits set out in Ontario Regulation 833
Most frequently issued orders
During the blitz there were 3,415 orders issued under the OHSA and its regulations including:
- O. Reg. 297/13: Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training
- O. Reg. 490/09: Designated Substances
- O. Reg. 833: Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents
The most frequently issued orders were related to failure to ensure that:
- a worker who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program (O. Reg. 297/13; 1(1)) - 148 orders
- a supervisor who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program (O. Reg. 297/13; 2(1)) - 108 orders
- an assessment of the exposure or likelihood of exposure of a worker to a designated substance in the workplace is carried out and recorded in writing (O. Reg. 490/09; 19(1)) – 11 orders
- measures required to limit the exposure of workers to a hazardous biological or chemical agent have been taken (O. Reg. 833; 4) - 5 orders
- measures and procedures to control the worker’s exposure to designated substances were carried out (O. Reg. 490/09; 20(1)) – 4 orders
Mines and mining plants
Inspectors checked on specific safety issues. These included:
- completing risk assessments when there are changes in the process or increases in production that may affect the assessments being used, so that a re-assessment would be needed
- adequate ventilation in underground mines to eliminate or reduce exposure to airborne hazards
- wearing of prescribed PPE for specific tasks
- worker training so workers recognize occupational disease hazards and can select, use and care for PPE as prescribed
- MSD hazards identified by the workplace parties
- workers have information and instruction regarding MSD hazards in their work
- how to perform manual materials handling duties safely
- if workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration and what precautions are being taken
- any lack of engineering controls that prevent worker exposure to chemical or biological hazards in underground and surface mines
Most frequently issued orders
During the blitz there were 226 orders issued under the OHSA and Reg. 854: Mines and Mining Plants. The most frequently issued orders were related to failure to:
- ensure equipment, materials and protective devices were maintained in good condition (OHSA; 25(1)b)) – 27 orders
- ensure pulleys and rollers are guarded by a guard (O. Reg. 854; 193(3.1)) – 23 orders
- walkway, stairway or ladderway are maintained in safe condition (O. Reg. 854; 54(1)(a)) – 8 orders
- provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect his or her health and safety (OHSA; 25(2)(a)) – 8 orders
- produce to the inspector any drawing, specifications, license, document, record or report (OHSA; 54(1)(b)) – 7 orders
Conclusion and next steps
The results of this blitz indicate that musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards continue to exist in workplaces. This should serve as a reminder to all workplace parties to review and improve upon the steps they take to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards and their understanding of duties and responsibilities under the OHSA.
We will continue to raise awareness of these hazards during inspections and encourage workplaces to set up a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) and hazard controls.
All workplace parties – employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives – must continue to work together to identify and control musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards. Better awareness of any hazard can bring change. Workplaces must continue to be diligent and not allow complacency to creep into their daily routines. Musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards can be prevented by raising awareness, training, providing appropriate equipment and taking proper precautions.
Help for employers
To learn more about preventing respiratory hazards in the workplace go to: preventoccdisease.ca
Please contact our health and safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards. A number of resources, developed in collaboration with our system partners, are available on the HSA websites to help employers and workers to continue to take actions to increase awareness and support the prevention of MSDs and exposures to respiratory hazards at work. The toolkit can be accessed on our health and safety partner websites:
- Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA)
- Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA)
- Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)
- Workplace Safety North (WSN)
See health and safety awareness products and training for workplace parties.
For more information contact the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s Health & Safety Contact Centre at
- A guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- A Guide to OHSA Requirements for Basic Awareness Training
- Guide for Health and Safety Committees and Representatives
- Guide to WHMIS
- A Guide to the Regulation Respecting Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations
- Code for Medical Surveillance for Designated Substances
- Occupational Exposure Limits for Ontario Workplaces (Table)
- Occupational health and safety compliance
- Health and safety for small businesses
- footnote Back to paragraph Field visits in a support role are activities where a professional services staff (e.g., hygienist, ergonomist, engineer etc.), or another inspector accompanies an inspector on a field visit to provide professional support or expertise.