Overview

During a blitz from September 1 to November 30, 2017, Ministry of Labour inspectors:

Inspectors checked that employers were complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations at residential construction projects. This included checking that employers were taking appropriate action to identify and control hazards to protect workers.

The goals of the inspection blitz were to:

  • raise awareness of key health and safety hazards at residential construction projects
  • verify regulatory requirements were being met
  • increase workplace compliance with the law
  • prevent injuries and illness that could arise from unsafe work practices

Residential projects

A residential construction project involves the building of a private dwelling where people can live. It can also involve alteration or expansion of a private residence.

Residential projects involve many kinds of work, including excavations, site servicing, foundation construction, structural building, roofing, and interior and exterior servicing and finishing.

Traditionally, 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 materials
  • entrapment due to excavation collapse
  • electrical shocks or burns

The major health hazards are worker exposure to silica, asbestos, carbon monoxide and various biological hazards.

Between 2012 and 2016, the residential construction sector accounted for more than a third of all critical injuries in construction (332 out of 920, or 36.5%), and almost half of all fatalities (42 out of 88, or 47.7%).

Non-compliance and the presence of young and vulnerable workers continue to be factors in the residential construction sector.

Full report

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 compliance assistance and training.

Blitz focus

Common hazards at residential construction projects

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:

  • Working at heights/fall protection: Inspectors checked that workplace parties had identified all situations where workers could be exposed to the hazard of falling. This included checking that proper guardrail systems or opening covers were in place whenever possible, and/or that workers were protected by an appropriate fall protection system and were adequately trained on that system. They also checked that an adequate rescue plan was in place to rescue workers using a fall arrest system or safety net.
  • Safe access and egress: Inspectors checked that stairs, runways, ramps, ladders, scaffolds, elevating work platforms, and any other means of access or egress, were in compliance, and that they were maintained in a manner that did not endanger workers. Additionally, inspectors verified that an adequate means of egress was available in case of an emergency.
  • Mobile equipment safety: Inspectors checked that mobile equipment was in safe working order, operators were competent, and the equipment was used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspectors also verified that workers were aware of possible hazards involving moving mobile equipment, and that competent (and properly attired) signallers were in place, as required by the Regulation for Construction Projects.
  • Material storage and handling: Inspectors checked that construction materials, such as roofing shingles, were stored and handled in a safe manner.
  • Removal and storage of waste materials: Inspectors checked that waste materials, such as asbestos and silica, were removed and stored in a safe manner.
  • Safe excavations: Inspectors checked that excavations were supported or sloped in accordance with the Regulation for Construction Projects to protect workers from a possible collapse or entrapment
  • Electrical hazards: Inspectors checked that all work on or near energized electrical conductors, equipment, or installations was done in accordance with the Regulation for Construction Projects, and in a safe manner.
  • Health hazards: Inspectors checked that adequate onsite hygiene and clean-up facilities were provided and maintained for workers.

Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations, including:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to make them comply with legal requirements
  • requiring employers to provide information to the inspector
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue

Inspection activity summary

Visits to projects

  • 1,406 field visits with 167 support role activities
  • 1,192 workplaces visited
  • 4,223 orders and requirements issued
  • 4,196 orders were issued for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. This included 352 stop work orders issued in connection with 549 orders for violations that posed an immediate danger or hazard to worker health and safety (and in which compliance could not be immediately achieved).
  • 27 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 3.54 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 3 orders and requirements issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

The most frequently issued orders under the Regulation for Construction Projects were for:

  • failure of a worker to wear protective headwear at all times when on a project [22(1)] – 430 orders or 10.2% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of an employer to ensure a worker is adequately protected from falling by a guardrail system that meets the requirements of s. 26.3 (2) to (8) of the Construction Regulation [as required by 26.1(1)] – 186 orders or 4.4% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of a constructor to complete an approved notification form and file it at a Ministry of Labour office located nearest to the project or submit it electronically on an Ontario government website [ 6(3)] – 170 orders or 4% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of an employer to ensure a worker is protected from falling by a guardrail system that meets the requirements of this section, if the 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:
    1. A floor, including the floor of a mezzanine or balcony
    2. The surface of a bridge
    3. A roof while formwork is in place
    4. A scaffold platform or other work platform, runway or ramp.

      [s. 26.3(1)] – 154 orders or 3.6% of the total orders and requirements issued

  • failure of an employer to use at a project a portable ladder manufactured to 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 [s.80(1)] – 116 orders or 2.7% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of an employer to protect a worker by the highest ranked fall protection method that is practicable - in accordance to the ranking provided by the regulation, if it is not practicable to install a guardrail [ s.26.1(2)] – 115 orders or 2.7% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of an employer to ensure stairs have a securely fastened and supported wooden handrail on the open sides of each flight [s. 77(2)(e)] – 112 orders or 2.7% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure of a constructor to keep the completed notification form posted in a conspicuous place at a project or available at the project for review by a ministry inspector [s. 6(6)] – 111 orders or 2.6% of the total orders and requirements issued

Non-compliance

Although the single highest percentage of orders was directed at the requirement for head protection (430 orders or 10.2%, traditionally an area of low compliance on residential construction projects), non-compliance with measures and procedures (including some for ladders) intended to prevent or mitigate falls resulted in a total of 683 orders. This represented 16.2% of all orders issued. Overall, 549 orders (13%) were issued where the contraventions posed an immediate danger or hazard to the health or safety of a worker (and compliance could not be achieved immediately), resulting in 352 stop work orders.

Conclusion and next steps

Residential construction projects are an ongoing concern for the Ministry of Labour. Failure to comply with fall protection requirements continues to put workers at risk of critical injuries and death.

One of the OHSA’s primary purposes is to facilitate a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) in the workplace. To this end, the OHSA lays out the duties of employers, supervisors, workers, constructors and workplace owners. Workplace parties’ compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS and control of hazards in the workplace. To this end, all workplace parties need to improve their understanding of their OHSA duties and responsibilities to work together to ensure a healthy and safe workplace. 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 falls hazards.

The ministry will continue to raise awareness of hazards on residential construction projects in Ontario.


Footnotes

  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph 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.
Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: April 23, 2018