From January 6 to March 13, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) conducted a health and safety initiative which focused on personal protective equipment (PPE) in construction workplaces.

We began by focusing on education, outreach and awareness, partnering with the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) to provide training and education to employers. The goal was to help employers comply with the requirements for PPE under the Occupational Health and Safety Act(OHSA) and its regulations prior to focused inspections.

Beginning February 3, 2020, we conducted a focused inspection blitz in construction workplaces to check that employers were complying with the OHSA and its regulations. This initiative included workplaces in the following sectors:

  • industrial, commercial and institutional building construction
  • residential building construction
  • civil engineering and roadwork

Our inspectors

  • conducted 1,771 field visits
  • visited 1,586 workplaces
  • issued 3,864 orders and requirements, including 297 stop work orders

The goals of the inspection blitz were:

  • to raise awareness of employers and workers that PPE is the last line of defence and to exhaust all other methods to control the hazard first
  • to raise awareness of the importance of selecting the right PPE for the task and hazard when PPE is required
  • to raise awareness of employer and worker responsibilities as required by the OHSA and other applicable regulations

Background and aspects of PPE

The ministry issued 7,600 orders in 2018 for lack of PPE on construction projects. The top three violations in 2018 were for lack of use of PPE such as headwear, footwear and high visibility clothing. This was the second-highest violation in construction workplaces for 2018 and the highest in 2017.

This initiative focused on the lack and misuse of PPE such as head, foot, eye, skin, hearing and respiratory protection devices. Our inspectors focused on checking that PPE was being supplied as prescribed and worn as appropriate to the task and hazard.

Employers and constructors are responsible for the following regarding PPE:

  • Protective headwear and footwear protection are prescribed by the legislation and are to be worn at all times on a construction site.
  • Ensure PPE as prescribed by regulation is provided.
  • Complete a risk assessment of the work task and hazards associated with that task.
  • Assess other controls which could be implemented to avoid the use of PPE.
  • Consider the hierarchy for implementing controls: at the source, along the path and at the worker.
  • Use PPE only after all strategies for mitigation or elimination have been exhausted.
  • If using PPE, ensure appropriate training is provided to workers in the selection, care, use and maintenance of that PPE.

Workers also have very specific responsibilities regarding PPE:

  • It is a worker’s duty to use and wear equipment, protective devices or clothing that is prescribed by the regulations or that their employer requires them to use or wear. Workers should report to their employer or supervisor the absence of or a defect in any equipment or protective device i.e. damaged or faulty under s. 28 of the OHSA.

Assessment of hazards and use of PPE is a shared responsibility of the internal responsibility system (IRS) at every project which includes constructors, employers, workers, health and safety committees or health and safety (H&S) reps and suppliers to ensure everyone is doing their part to keep the workplace safe.

Full report

Workplace inspection initiatives

Inspection initiatives are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We announce to the sector, in advance, that we will be conducting an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of the initiative 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 compliance assistance and training.

Focus of the initiative

We provided information on the initiative to the construction industry on January 16, 2020, in a webinar co-hosted by the ministry and the IHSA. The webinar offered details on what our inspectors would be looking for during the blitz, OHSA requirements for PPE in construction workplaces and gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions. The webinar was recorded and a link was sent out to the 200 participants who registered for the webinar.

Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

  • respiratory protection devices (for example, respirators)
  • hearing protectors
  • skin protection devices (for example, gloves or protective clothing)
  • high visibility clothing
  • head and foot protection
  • eye and face protection devices (for example, goggles)

Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations. This included:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to have them comply with legal requirements
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue

Inspection activity summary

Visits to workplaces

  • 1,771 field visits
  • 1,586 workplaces visited
  • 3,864 orders and requirements issued
    • 3,756 orders issued for violations under the OHSAand its regulations, including 297 stop work orders
    • 108 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 2.44 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 2.18 orders and requirements issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

Most of the orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and O. Reg. 213/91: Regulation for Construction Projects were for the following reasons:

  • failure to ensure every worker was wearing protective headwear at all times when on a project [O. Reg. 213/91 s. 22(1)] – 485 orders or 12.55% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • stop work order requiring work to cease until the order is withdrawn or cancelled by an inspector after an inspection [OHSA s. 57(6)(b)] — 202 orders or 5.23% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to use a guardrail system that meets the requirements of this section shall be used if a worker has access to the perimeter or an open side of any of the following work surfaces and may be exposed to a fall of 2.4 metres or more: [O. Reg. 213/91 s.26.3(1)(1-4)] – 156 orders or 4.04% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to provide a portable ladder at a project which shall be manufactured and shall meet the design, performance, test and marking requirements of a Grade 1, Grade 1A or Grade 1AA ladder in the CSA Standard Z11-12, portable ladders [O. Reg. 213/91 s.80(1)] – 129 orders or 3.34% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to complete an approved notification form and file it with the MLTSD [O. Reg. 213/91s. 6(3)] – 128 orders or 3.31% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • stop work on any place, equipment, machine, device, article, thing, process or material until the order is complied with [OHSA s. 57(6)(a)] — 91 orders or 2.36% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to produce any drawings, specifications, licence, document, record or report, and inspect, examine and copy the same [OHSA s.54(1)(c)] — 67 orders or 1.73% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative

The most frequently issued orders under other PPE applicable regulations were for employers':

  • failure, under O. Reg. 297/13: Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, to ensure a worker who may use a method of fall protection has successfully completed a working at heights training program both for workers and supervisors [s.7(1). s. 2(1) and s. 1(1)] — 16 orders or 0.41% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure, under O. Reg. 833: Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents, to ensure the following regarding respirators: proper fit testing, written measures and procedures in place, training and instruction, content of training requirements, appropriate for the circumstances [s. 12(1), s.9(2), s. s.9(3), s.9(1),s.9(4)] - 11 orders or 0.10% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure, under O. Reg. 278/05: Designated Substance - Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations, to ensure prior to tendering an examination is completed to determine friable and non-friable asbestos; if asbestos-containing materials (ACM) is discovered no work is done until an examination is done unless being treated as ACM; to ensure warning signage is posted during Type 2 or Type 3 operation; remove all ACM prior to demolition to the extent practicable [s. 10(2), s.10(10), s.15, s.6(1)] — 4 orders or 0.10% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure under O. Reg. 381/15: Noise to ensure training and instruction on hearing protection devices, take all measures reasonable to prevent exposure to hazardous sound levels; workers shall wear and use hearing protection devices appropriate in the circumstances to sound levels greater than the limits if engineering controls can not be achieved [s.3, s.2, s.2(6)] — 4 orders or 0.10% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative


The results of this initiative indicate that workplace parties need to improve compliance with PPE requirements.

  • Workers continue to be exposed to hazards due to lack of wearing PPE when required and employers’ lack of conducting assessments of tasks, hazards, controls to ensure workers are properly protected with the right selection of PPE and training when PPE is prescribed or applicable.
  • Heightened awareness of any hazard can bring change. All workplace parties must continue to be diligent and not allow complacency to creep into their daily routines.
  • The risk of exposure to hazards can be avoided if more assessments are conducted by employers to better understand the level of worker exposure to noise, asbestos and other biological or chemical substances etc.    

Conclusion and next steps

Ministry inspectors will continue to pay attention to the above areas related to PPE.

The results of the initiative confirm our need to continue to focus on PPE in construction workplaces.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS). Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control all hazards.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information.

Related links

Activities in which professional services staff (e.g., a hygienist, ergonomist, engineer, etc.) or another inspector accompanies an inspector on a field visit to provide professional support and/or expertise.