Overview

Following 2 separate tower crane failures in the summer of 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) conducted a province wide initiative starting August 31, 2020 until December 31, 2020. MLTSD dispatched inspectors across Ontario to review the inspection, installation and maintenance practices of tower cranes at construction sites.

We began by partnering with the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) to provide information to the industry regarding the focus of MLTSD tower crane inspections. The goal was to help workplace parties comply with the requirements for tower cranes under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations prior to the inspections.

Beginning August 31, 2020, we conducted a focused inspection initiative at construction workplaces with tower cranes to check that employers were complying with the OHSA and its regulations.

All construction sectors with tower cranes were included in the initiative.

The cranes were mostly in use at:

  • apartment and other multiple housing construction
  • industrial, commercial and institutional building construction

Our inspectors:

  • conducted 325 field visits
  • visited 161 workplaces
  • issued 911 orders and requirements, including 118 stop work orders

Background crane safety

The ministry completed several crane blitzes and initiatives prior to the 2020 tower crane campaign, maintaining its focus on cranes operating at construction projects. Inspectors have conducted over 3,500 crane initiative field visits since 2011.

The Ministry is engaged with the review and development of the CSA standard Z-248-17 code for tower cranes. Ministry staff are members of the standard’s technical committee.

Ministry staff consulted on the Professional Engineers of Ontario practice standard for the review of tower cranes as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Full report

Workplace inspection initiatives

Under normal circumstances, inspection initiatives are part of our Safe At Work Ontario (SAWO) compliance strategy. We announce that we will be conducting an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of these initiatives are typically posted online within 90 days of the initiative’s end date. Findings from these initiatives may impact the number and level of future inspections of individual workplaces or workplaces conducting similar activities.

As a normal course of business, inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations such as the IHSA for compliance assistance.

The tower crane initiative was not part of MLTSD’s SAWO compliance strategy as it was in response to two tower crane failures. As such, it did not follow the same process as other SAWO initiatives. Construction sites with tower cranes were targeted.

Focus of the initiative

We provided detailed information regarding the focus of initiative to the construction industry through the Labour Management Health Safety Network and the IHSA.

The primary elements of the inspection initiative were to ensure:

  • tower cranes are inspected prior to being erected per the regulatory requirements
  • tower cranes are erected and inspected properly, prior to being put into service as per the regulatory requirements and manufacturers recommendations
  • workplace parties maintain tower cranes in a condition that does not endanger workers or the public

Inspection activity summary

Visits to workplaces

  • 325 field visits
  • 161 workplaces visited
  • 911 orders and requirements issued
  • 118 stop work orders
  • 113 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 2.46 orders issued per field visit
  • an average of 4.96 orders issued per workplace visit

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

Most frequently issued orders

Most of the 905 orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and O. Reg. 213/91: Construction Projects were for the following reasons:

  • failure to ensure cranes were maintained in a condition that would not endanger a worker and to use the crane in accordance with the operating manual issued by the manufacturer [O. Reg. 213/91 s. 93] – 115 orders or 12.71% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • deficiencies with pre-erection inspections and tests resulted in requirements issued to provide an inspector with information regarding the structural integrity of the crane [OHSA s. 54] — 113 requirements or 12.49% 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 ss. 57(6)(b)] — 104 orders or 11.49% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to ensure workers were protected from the hazard of falling [O. Reg. 213/91 ss. 26.1, 26.3 and 26.9] – 103 orders or 11.38% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to ensure that adequate non-destructive testing of cranes were conducted and installations were designed, inspected and tested as required by the regulation [O. Reg. 213/91 s.157-159] – 67 orders or 7.40% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to ensure operational tests were performed on the crane to ensure that its automatic limit switches and overload limit devices are installed and functioning in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, if any [O. Reg. 213/91 s.161-164] – 39 orders or 4.32% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • failure to ensure the worker operating the tower crane holds a certificate of qualification issued under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009, or the worker is an apprentice and is working pursuant to a training agreement [O. Reg. 213/91 s.150] – 8 orders or .88% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative

Observations

The results of this initiative indicate there is room for improvement regarding the level of compliance before the erection of tower cranes at the project. Adequate non-destructive testing of structural components must be conducted prior to the crane being assembled at the site. The regulation requires a professional engineer to ensure that the structural elements and components of the crane are subjected to non-destructive testing (NDT) to ensure the structural integrity of the crane.

Despite the MLTSD and Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) providing information on focus of tower crane inspections to the industry, some sites did not have the required proof of compliance available. The failure to ensure that tower cranes were adequately inspected and maintained resulted in stop work orders and caused work stoppages at some construction projects.

Strong compliance was noted for the requirement for workers to wear protective headwear and footwear at these job sites with just one order issued for a contravention for personal protective equipment. Orders for head and foot protection are typically our most common orders to be issued on construction projects.

Conclusion and next steps

The Ministry is committed to working with stakeholders to advance tower crane safety in Ontario.

The Ministry will continue to engage internal and external committees to improve the regulatory requirements, best practices and guidance materials to ensure positive outcomes at construction projects to keep Ontario Open for Business.

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 in their workplace.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information.

Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: April 26, 2021