During a blitz in June and July 2017, Ministry of Labour inspectors:

Inspectors checked that employers were complying with the OHSA and its regulations. This included checking that:

  • employers were providing competent supervision for workers on projects when required and
  • supervisors were:
    • identifying hazards for workers
    • ensuring controls were implemented to mitigate health and safety risks
    • ensuring workers were working with personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • following measures and procedures required by the OHSA and Regulation for Construction Projects

The goals of the inspection blitz were to:

  • raise awareness of key responsibilities of supervisors to protect the health and safety of workers
  • increase workplace compliance with the law
  • prevent injuries from unsafe work practices

Aspects of supervision on projects

Supervisors play a key role in the internal responsibility system at a construction project. This is because they act as the employer’s representative and are the main vehicle of communication between the employer and workers.

Supervisor responsibilities include:

  • planning a project’s work
  • overseeing the work’s implementation
  • assigning tasks to workers
  • providing workers with advice and direction
  • ensuring workers wear required personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • ensuring workers work in compliance with the OHSA and its regulations

A supervisor is a person appointed by the employer who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker. A supervisor is defined by responsibility and job function — not by title. Any one of the following may be considered a supervisor:

  • foreman
  • lead hand
  • site superintendent
  • charge hand
  • journeyman
  • trainer
  • individual temporarily assigned as an assistant who is a competent person

A supervisor must be a “competent person” which means he or she is qualified to organize and direct work due to knowledge, training and experience. A competent supervisor must also be familiar with:

  • the OHSA
  • his or her duties
  • any potential or actual hazards of the work

The supervisor must carry out those duties and take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect workers.

Employers have a significant challenge and responsibility to put in place competent supervisors and develop adequate monitoring systems to deal with workplace safety concerns (including oversight of safety) on construction projects. Generally, site supervisors are the first line of contact at a construction project.

The potential for injuries to occur is high if a supervisor’s duties and responsibilities are not complied with under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation for Construction Projects. For example, a worker may be injured due to a supervisor’s awareness of a potential or actual danger and failure to advise the worker.

In worker injury cases, the courts are increasingly holding supervisors accountable for not fulfilling their OHSA duties to protect their workers.

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

The focus of this blitz was to check that supervisors:

  • were aware of their OHSA and regulatory duties
  • were fulfilling their regulatory duties
  • were aware of the regulatory health and safety requirements that apply to the work taking place at the project
  • were given mandatory awareness training

Inspectors checked on specific safety issues, such as ensuring supervisors:

  • had taken both the mandatory Basic Supervisor and Worker Awareness Training programs
  • were familiar with the OHSA and their supervisory responsibilities as well as the regulations that applied to the work taking place at the project
  • were informing workers of potential or actual dangers that the supervisors were aware of
  • were conducting required onsite routine inspections and having regular tailgatefootnote 3 meetings with the workers
  • were ensuring workers worked with the required PPE and in compliance with the measures and procedures required by the OHSA and Regulation for Construction Projects
  • were providing competent supervision if five or more workers regularly worked at the project.

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

  • 1,595 field visits
  • 177 field visits in a support role
  • 1,428 workplaces visited
  • 3,903 orders issued for a number of violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations
  • 292 of the 3,903 orders issued were stop work orders
  • 65 of the 3,903 orders issued were requirements to provide an inspector with information related to the workplace
  • an average of 2.73 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 2.45 orders and requirements issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

The most frequently issued orders under the OHSA and Regulation for Construction Projects during the blitz were:

  • Failure to ensure every worker was wearing protective headwear at all times when on a project [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 22(1)] — 351 orders or 8.99% of total orders issued.
  • 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)] — 173 orders or 4.43% of total orders.
  • Failure to ensure a worker is adequately protected by the best method of fall protection if it is not practical to install a guardrail [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 26.1(2)]  — 135 orders or 3.46% of total orders.
  • Failure to complete an approved notification form and file it with the Ministry of Labour, either electronically on an Ontario government website or at a Ministry of Labour office nearest to the project [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 6(3)] — 117 orders or 3% of total orders.
  • Failure of supervisor to ensure a worker worked in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by the OHSA and the regulations [OHSA. s. 27] — 114 orders or 2.92% of total orders.
  • Stop work on any place, equipment, machine, device, article, thing, process or material until the order is complied with [OHSA s. 57(6)(a)] — 108 orders or 2.77% of total orders.
  • Failure to ensure every worker wore protective footwear at all times on a project [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 23(1)] — 106 orders or 2.72% of total orders.
  • Failure to ensure a worker is adequately protected from falling from one level to another by a guardrail system [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 26.1(1)] — 99 orders or 2.54% of total orders.
  • Failure to ensure a portable ladder at a project is of a Grade 1, Grade 1A or Grade 1AA as required by the CSA Standard Z11-12 for Portable Ladders [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 80(1)] — 94 orders or 2.41% of total orders.
  • Failure to establish and implement written procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency at a project [Regulation for Construction Projects s. 17(1)] — 86 orders or 2.20% of total orders.

Non-compliance with supervisor duties

A total of 114 orders were issued to supervisors for not properly exercising their responsibilities under OHSA section 27. This placed their workers in imminent danger. Section 27 states

A supervisor shall ensure that a worker, works in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and the regulations.

The OHSA section 27 orders issued to supervisors were linked to failures to comply with the Regulation for Construction Projects.

Below are common orders written in conjunction with OHSA s. 27(1)(a). These orders involve cases in which supervisors were failing to ensure workers worked in compliance with the OHSA or its regulations, including wearing required PPE.

  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 22 and 23: Workers not wearing hard hats and protective foot wear while on a project.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 26.1(2): Workers not using a method of fall protection, as required, and being exposed to a fall of three meters or more.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 67(2): Absence of adequate traffic control measures exposing workers to risk of being struck by vehicular traffic.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 26.3(1): Lack of guardrails installed around stair openings and landings exposing workers to a risk of falling.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 80(1), 82(2), 83(1), and 93(3): Workers using access ladders improperly and not as per manufacturers’ specifications, including
    • Ladders that are not construction grade 1
    • Ladders not secured at the top or extending 900 mm beyond their landing point
    • Step ladder legs not fully spread and locked.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 128: Workers working on unsafe scaffolds that do not meet safety requirements such as adequate bracing and guarding of all openings.
  • Regulation for Construction Projects s. 72: Obstructed access/egress to work area.

Sector information

The majority of orders were written to supervisors/employers in the following construction sectors:
SectorNumber of workplaces visitedNumber of field visitsNumber of field visits in a support roleNumber of field visits in a support role
Single family housing509565601,775
Commercial building construction25228222547
Apartment & other multiple housing15918523505
Institutional building construction11212115228
Industrial building construction53619137
Sewer/Watermain construction53613120

Strong internal responsibility system

The self-regulatory character of the internal responsibility system (IRS) is key to the control of health and safety risks in the workplace. A strong IRS requires contributors — employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) and health and safety representatives — to carry out their respective OHSA functions.

Employers must:

  • ensure a workplace’s IRS is established, promoted, and that it functions successfully
  • establish and maintain well-defined health and safety policies and programs in the workplace, including for the design, control, monitoring and supervision of work being performed
  • co-operate and provide assistance to the JHSC or health and safety representative to enable them to carry out their respective functions

Employers and supervisors are both required to acquaint workers with any hazards in the workers’ work.

Supervisors must:

  • act as the workers’ representative
  • take every reasonable precaution to protect their workers when planning work and assigning tasks
  • address workers’ health and safety concerns to ensure their protection

Workers must:

  • report to their employer or supervisor health and safety hazards in their workplace and OHSA contraventions
  • advocate on their own behalf by exercising their right to know, participate and refuse unsafe work

The JHSC or health and safety representative contribute to workplace health and safety due to their involvement with health and safety issues at a construction project.

Conclusion and next steps

Employers, supervisors, workers, JHSCs and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control hazards on construction projects.

Ministry inspectors will continue to focus on hazards related to unsafe work practices, including hazards caused by a lack of or inadequate supervision. In addition, inspectors will continue to focus on current provincial and regional initiatives and upcoming blitzes including struck by hazards, fall protection, electrical contact, noise (hearing) protection and ladder safety.