Overview

From March 18 until July 12, 2019, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) conducted a cross-sector blitz which focused on hazards causing slips, trips and falls. 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 on the blitz focus. The goal was to help employers comply with requirements related to slips, trips and falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations prior to the start of focused inspections. 

The focused inspection blitz phase began April 15, 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 address slips, trips and falls hazards and 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 April 15 to July 12, 2019, inspectors:

  • conducted 5,456 field visits with 513 support role activities. footnote i
  • visited 4,670 workplaces
  • issued 14,301 orders and requirements under the OHSA and its regulations, including 899 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 make 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 compliance assistance and training.

Compliance support

Beginning March 18, 2019, the ministry's health and safety programs worked with their respective HSAs to provide training and education to employers and workers prior to the start of focused inspections.

All programs in partnership with HSAs conducted a webinar outlining the blitz focus and topics, what to expect during an inspection, and the importance of planning, training, and supervision when it comes to slips, trips and falls. It also raised awareness of resources employers and workers can consult in order to achieve a safe workplace environment where slips, trips and falls are adequately controlled.

During the first week of May, the ministry promoted workplace participation in Ontario's annual Falls Awareness Week (FAW). FAW aimed to bring awareness of the falls hazards that exist in every workplace. MLTSD encouraged workplaces to use our falls resources and the materials on falls that our HSA partners developed to assist workplaces.

Slips, trips and falls hazards

Slips, trips and falls continue to be significant hazards at construction projects, industrial and health care workplaces and at mines and mining plants across the province.

  • Falls is the third-highest injury event in 2018, accounting for 20.6% of allowed lost-time  claims with the WSIB, for a total of 13,368 claims.
  • According to WSIB statistics, the leading injury claim for workers over the age of 45, from 2014 to 2018, was falls from the same level.
  • In the construction program for 2018, there were 16 fatalities as a result of a fall, accounting for 64% of MLTSD covered fatalities in the program.
  • In the industrial program for 2018, there were 7 fatalities resulting from a fall. These fatalities accounted for 26% of MLTSD covered fatalities in the program.

Hazards at workplaces can include:

  • slippery, poorly maintained or obstructed floors or other surfaces
  • poorly maintained and unsafe use of ladders
  • unguarded openings or other surfaces
  • equipment, beds of trucks, trailers or loads
  • wet and slippery surfaces
  • debris and items stored in pedestrian walkways or hallways
  • weather conditions (snow, ice and rain)
  • clutter and loose cords, hoses and wires
  • elevated work platforms with inadequate guard rail system

Construction projects

Inspection focus

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:

  • Safe access to and egress from the work locations: Inspectors checked that surfaces were properly lit, clear of snow, ice or other slippery material, had adequate stairs, ladders, runways, ramps and platforms that provided firm footing and allowed for implementation of rescue procedures.
  • Adequate housekeeping: Inspectors checked that work surfaces were free of clutter and debris and that work surfaces were free of slippery material.
  • Control of fall hazards: Inspectors checked the control of fall hazards from perimeters of work areas, platform, floor or roof openings (including skylights), using guardrail systems as a first measure of protection.
  • Adequate written procedures: Inspectors checked procedures for rescuing a worker after a fall has been arrested.
  • Adequate training: Inspectors checked that workers received adequate training when required to use fall protection equipment.
  • Adequate supervision: Inspectors checked that supervision to ensure planning and training regarding slips, trips and falls was implemented.

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 wear protective headwear [ss. 22(1)] – 808 orders
  • failure to provide guardrails to protect workers against falls [ss. 26.1(1)] and [ss. 26.3(1)]  – respectively 316 orders and 212 orders
  • failure to provide a notice of project as required (s. 6) – 374 orders
  • failure to provide adequate fall protection in accordance to the highest ranked method when guardrails are not practicable [ss. 26.1(2)] – 366 orders
  • failure to wear adequate protective footwear [ss. 23(1)] – 253 orders
  • failure to provide a portable ladder that meets 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 [ss. 80(1)] – 228 orders

Health care workplaces

Inspection focus

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:

  • Adequate housekeeping: Inspectors checked that clutter and debris were removed and work surfaces were kept free of slippery material cracks, holes or bumps.
  • Same level slips and trips: Inspectors checked that employers were keeping floors, walkways and other work surfaces free of obstructions and other hazards. Clearing or promptly treating slippery substances like spills, snow, refuse and ice.
  • Falls from ladders: Inspectors checked that employers had assessed ladders for hazards and that this equipment was maintained and placed on firm footing when in use.
  • Safe work practices: Inspectors checked that employers had developed safe work practices to protect workers from the risk of falls. They also checked for proper footwear and suitable lighting.

Most frequently issued orders

The most frequently issued orders under the Health Care and Residential Facilities  (O. Reg. 67/93) during the blitz were:

  • failure to keep work surfaces free of fall and slip hazards [ss. 33(1)] – 40 orders
  • failure to ensure that ladders are safe [ss. 82(1)] – 16 orders
  • failure to ensure that, at least annually, measures and procedures for the health and safety of workers are reviewed and revised in light of current knowledge and practice [ss. 9(2)] – 15 orders
  • failure to provide guarding or other device (s. 45) – 6 orders
  • failure to safely transport, place or store materials, articles or things [ss. 103(2)] – 5 orders

Industrial workplaces

Inspection focus

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:

  • Policies and programs:  Inspectors checked that employers had policies and programs in place to protect workers from falls. This included ensuring investigations were conducted when fall-related critical injuries or fatalities occurred. The goal was to prevent a recurrence. They also checked that employers had emergency rescue procedures in place for workers who fall.
  • Safe work practices: Inspectors checked that employers had developed safe work practices, including assessing the risk of falls. They also checked that employers were ensuring workers follow safe work practices.
  • Falls from ladders, mobile stands and platforms: Inspectors checked that employers had assessed ladders, stands and platforms for hazards and that this equipment was maintained and placed on firm footing when in use.
  • Same level slips and trips: Inspectors checked that employers were keeping floors and other work surfaces free of obstructions and other hazards (such as oil or grease). Special attention was given to walkways, aisles and other areas where there was pedestrian traffic.
  • Falls from trucks/loads: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring that workers were using safe work practices if they could be exposed to falls hazards from the beds of trucks, trailers or the top of loads. Inspectors also verified that employers had safe procedures for securing tarps over loads on flatbed trucks. Inspectors also checked that lighting was adequate and work surfaces were maintained.
  • Ergonomics: Inspectors checked that employers were ensuring workers performed tasks in a manner that prevented falls. For example, inspectors checked that employers were ensuring workers were carrying objects so their view was not obstructed and that they were working in a safe manner that protected them from losing their balance.
  • Worker training: Inspectors checked that employers provided information, instruction and supervision to workers to prevent injuries and deaths from falls hazards.

Most frequently issued orders

The most frequently issued orders under the Regulations for Industrial Establishments (O. Reg. 851) during the blitz were:

  • failure to keep floors or other surfaces free of obstructions or hazards (s. 11) –324 orders
  • failure to ensure a lifting device is thoroughly examined by a competent person to determine its capability of handling the maximum load as rated [ss. 51(1)(b)] – 178 orders 
  • failure to ensure that machines or other devices including in-running nip hazards are equipped with a guard or other device that prevents access to the moving part or pinch point (s. 24 and s. 25) –94 and 141 orders respectively
  • failure to ensure machinery, equipment or materials are secured against tipping or falling (s.46) – 120 orders
  • failure to ensure that materials are transported, placed or stored so they will not tip, collapse or fall [ss. 45(b)] – 116 orders

Mines and mining plants

Inspection focus

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as:

  • Employer duties: Inspectors checked that employers had policies and procedures in place to protect workers from falls and musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Safe work: Inspectors checked that employers had conducted risk assessments and had practices in place to minimize fall and musculoskeletal disorder hazards.
  • Equipment: Inspectors verified that measures existed to protect workers from falls off ladders, mobile stands and platforms.
  • Guardrails and barricades: Inspectors checked that openings and elevated platforms were properly protected with guardrails, toe boards and other barriers to prevent falls. They also checked that controls and guarding devices were appropriate for the hazard and mining method.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Inspectors checked that PPE was provided and used in the workplace. This included checking for footwear, head protection, fall protection systems and anchor points that were engineered for the work.
  • Training: Inspectors verified that workers who work at heights had received training (for example, training to recognize falls hazards and use of appropriate protective measures).
  • Slips and trips: Inspectors checked that slips and trips hazards were being controlled or minimized and that access to workplaces was adequately protected to prevent slips, trips and falls. They also checked that travelways were being maintained to eliminate tripping hazards. They also verified that water accumulations concealing tripping hazards were removed from the workplace and that slippery surfaces were made safe.

Most frequently issued orders

The top 5 orders related to slips, trips and falls issued under the Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants (O. Reg. 854) during the blitz were:

  • failure to provide a safe means of access to a workplace as required (s. 46) – 40 orders                    
  • failure to provide ladderways as required (s. 47, 48 & 49) – 7 orders
  • failure to provide isolation of hazardous areas such as barricades, fencing or other suitable means (s. 68) – 4 orders
  • failure to provide adequate fall arrest protection (s. 14) – 3 orders
  • failure to provide protection of mine openings (s. 18) – 2 orders

Conclusion and next steps

The results of this blitz indicate that slip, trip and fall hazards continue to exist in workplaces along with the associated contraventions with the OHSA and its Regulations. This should serve as a reminder to all workplace parties to review and improve upon prevention of slips, trips and falls and the associated understanding of duties and responsibilities under the OHSA.

We will continue to raise awareness of falls hazards during inspections and encourage the establishment of strong internal responsibility systems (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 falls hazards. Heightened awareness of any hazard can bring change. Workplaces must continue to be diligent and not allow complacency to creep into their daily routines. Slips, trips and falls can be prevented by raising awareness, training, provision of appropriate equipment and taking proper precautions.

Help for employers

Learn more about ladder ergonomics and what employers can do to reduce falls.

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards.

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 1-877-202-0008.

Always call 911 immediately in an emergency.


Footnotes

  • footnote[i] Back to paragraph Field visits in a support role are activities where a professional services staff (for example, hygienist, ergonomist, engineer etc.) or another inspector accompanies an inspector on a field visit to provide professional support or expertise.
Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: December 10, 2019