Compliance initiative results: COVID‑19 “Stay Safe All Day” in the construction industry
Results of a province-wide initiative that focused on COVID‑19 safety measures in construction workplaces from February 2 to May 7, 2021.
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From February 2 to May 7, 2021, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) conducted a province-wide health and safety initiative that focused on COVID‑19 measures and procedures in construction workplaces, as part of the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign to reduce the transmission of COVID‑19 in the workplace.
“Stay Safe All Day” is a province-wide workplace safety campaign focusing on how social behaviours and individual choices can result in a workplace outbreak. MLITSD inspectors are inspecting areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and providing resource materials to employers and workers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.
This initiative was part of the enforcement strategy during COVID‑19 for monitoring compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations to ensure workers are protected from all hazards, including infectious diseases in the workplace.
We began by focusing on assisting workplace parties with COVID‑19 precautions. Prior to focused inspections, ministry inspectors and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) visited construction workplaces to provide education and promote awareness of recommended public health guidance on COVID‑19 measures and procedures.
Beginning February 2, 2021, we conducted focused inspections at construction workplaces to check that employers were complying with relevant legislation, following COVID‑19 precautions and taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect their workers from COVID‑19. Contraventions under the Regulation for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91) were also addressed, when observed.
All construction sectors were included in the initiative.
- conducted 3,830 field visits
- visited 3,117 workplaces
- issued 8,424 orders under OHSA and O. Reg. 213/91: Construction Projects
The goals of the inspection initiative were to:
- raise awareness and ensure workplace parties are following guidance on COVID‑19 measures and procedures from the Ministry of Health and Chief Medical Officer of Health
- raise awareness of and compliance with employer and worker responsibilities as required by the OHSA and O. Reg. 213/91 and other applicable regulations
- highlight the importance of a strong internal responsibility system where all workers, supervisors, health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committee (JHSC) members are actively engaged in communications about COVID‑19 workplace measures and procedures, including internal policies, daily updates and changes
- address contraventions under the Regulation for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91), when observed
From March 11, 2020, to January 19, 2021, MLITSD inspectors conducted 10,499 proactive field visits to 8,731 construction projects to verify compliance and provide compliance assistance information regarding public health COVID‑19 guidelines and hygiene requirements for adequate toilet and handwashing facilities under O. Reg. 213/91.
In the early stages of the COVID‑19 pandemic, as a result of the above ongoing compliance assistance, construction projects actively took precautions and implemented public health recommendations. Ministry inspectors initially saw enhanced measures for toilet and washing facilities, increased worker attention to hand hygiene and some form of masking when not able to physical distance. However, as the pandemic continued it became evident that preventative measures “fatigue” was setting in and the industry needed to be reminded of the importance of maintaining all precautions as laid out by the public health guidelines and hygiene requirements under O. Reg. 213/91.
The construction COVID‑19 initiative under the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign was a renewed effort to remind the construction industry of the importance of continued compliance with all COVID‑19 practices on construction projects.
Workplace inspection initiatives
Under normal circumstances, inspection initiatives are part of our Sector Compliance Plan. We announce that we will be conducting an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. Findings from these initiatives may impact the number and level of future inspections of individual workplaces or workplaces conducting similar activities.
The construction initiative was a part of the MLITSD’s “Stay Safe All Day” campaign to address the renewed and continued enforcement of COVID‑19 precautions on construction projects. The initiative applied to all construction sectors.
Focus of the initiative
We provided detailed information regarding the focus of the COVID‑19 initiative to the construction industry through the Labour Management Health Safety Network and the IHSA.
Inspectors checked that employers understood the risks associated with COVID‑19, including how to reduce spread in their workplace, and that employers were implementing measures to keep workers safe.
Inspectors focused on:
- how the JHSC or health and safety representative were consulted on the measures and procedures the employer has put in place
- what screening the employer has in place to prevent workers who may have COVID‑19 from coming to work
- what is done if a worker reports they have COVID‑19 or has symptoms of COVID‑19
- there is a return to work policy and procedures if a worker has had COVID‑19
- how the employer ensures physical distancing (a 2m separation) between workers
- how the employer ensures proper onsite hygiene
- what cleaning and disinfecting is being done
- what information and training has been given to workers
- other precautions including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Inspection activity summary
- 3,830 field visits
- 3,117 different workplaces visited
- 8,489 orders issued under the OHSA and its regulations, including:
- an average of 2.22 orders and requirements issued per field visit
- an average of 2.72 orders and requirement issued per workplace visit
Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations. This included:
- writing orders to employers, constructors, supervisors and workers to have them comply with legal requirements
- issuing stop-work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue
Most frequently issued orders
Most of the 8,424 COVID‑19 related orders issued under the OHSA and O. Reg. 213/91: Construction Projects during this initiative were for the following reasons:
- employer failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a workers from COVID‑19 including:
- lack of cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas (tools; shared equipment, railings, washrooms)
- no or inadequate screening measures to prevent transmission
- no masking or improperly wearing of masks
- not maintaining 2m physical distancing in common areas (vehicles, man-material hoist, work platforms)
[OHSA 25 (2) (h)] — 441 orders (5% of total)
- employer failure to provide information, instruction to workers on COVID‑19 measures and procedures including:
- no safety plan in place (measures and procedures)
- no policies on source protection masking
- lack of instruction and guidance on how to use, wear and maintain masks
- no procedure in place for workers with symptoms
[OHSA ss. 25 (2) (a)] — 365 orders (4% of total)
constructor and employer failure to ensure adequate clean-up facilities that meet all the requirements such as running water, hot and cold if reasonably possible, soap or hand cleanser and paper towels or hand dryer and waste disposal receptacle nearby
[O. Reg. 213/91 ss. 29.2 (1)] — 246 orders (3% of total).
The most frequently issued orders under O. Reg. 213/91 for non-COVID‑19 related contraventions included:
The stop work orders were issued for reasons including:
constructors and employer failure to ensure every worker wears protective headwear at all times when on a project
[O. Reg. 213/91 ss. 22 (1)] — 678 orders (8% of total)
constructor and employer failure to ensure a guardrail system to be used if a worker has access to the perimeter or an open side of any of the following work surfaces (such as open balconies, stairs, windows and floor edges) and may be exposed to a fall of 2.4 m or more
[O. Reg. 213/91 ss. 26.3(1)] — 296 orders (4% of total)
constructor and owner failure to complete an approved notification and file it at the Ministry office located nearest to the project
[O. Reg. 213/91 ss. 6 (3)] — 271 orders (3% of total)
stop work orders related to O. Reg. 213/91 contraventions (issued to rectify a situation that is a danger or a hazard to the health and safety of workers)
[760 stop work orders] (9% of total)
- missing or inadequate guardrails
- improper scaffolding
- no or inadequate stairs to basement
- lack of protection from excavation, trench openings and improper sloping
- lack of proper training (i.e. working at heights)
The results of this initiative indicate there is opportunity for improvement with respect to health and safety on construction projects. This includes employers and constructors ensuring they are taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from COVID‑19.
Noted areas for improvement included:
- ensuring face coverings are being used along with eye protection when working within 2m of another worker
- implementing COVID‑19 measures and procedures (safety plans)
- ensuring daily screening being done to reduce transmission
- maintain physical distancing including in common areas
Conclusion and next steps
The internal responsibility system (IRS) will continue having a vital role to ensure that COVID‑19 precautions are in place and implemented at construction projects.
Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify, resolve and control work-related hazards, including those posed by COVID‑19. Supervisors, in particular, have a key role to ensure that workers follow all related precautions such as physical distancing and wearing appropriate masks, as well as procedures contained in a COVID‑19 safety program.
All workplaces must have a COVID‑19 safety program and procedures to:
- maintain physical distancing and screening practices
- provide proper clean-up facilities
- promote hand washing
- address the use of masking
Routine risk assessments should be considered along with communication strategies to ensure workers are adequately trained and regularly updated on the COVID‑19 safety procedures and protocols.
To aid you and our health and safety partners, we will continue to provide information about the latest guidance from the Ministry of Health and Chief Medical Officer of Health regarding COVID‑19 recommended precautions.
Help for employers
For more information on COVID‑19 safety plans and construction sector guidance, please link to Ontario Resources to prevent COVID‑19 in the workplace or contact Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s health and safety partners.
- footnote Back to paragraph A stop work order is one that stops the work or the use of any place, equipment, machine, device or thing or any process or material until the related contravention order is complied with. A stop work order is issued with a related contravention (companion) order to rectify a contravention that is a danger or a hazard to the health and safety of workers.
- footnote Back to paragraph Requirement orders are issued to gather information or determine/verify compliance.