Overview

In September and October 2018, the Ministry of Labour conducted a health and safety initiative focused on equipment operated in reverse. The initiative was organized in two phases.

During Phase 1 (September 1 to September 30) the Ministry of Labour worked with the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) on a joint awareness and compliance assistance initiative. The goal was to raise awareness of the hazards caused by reversing vehicles and equipment on construction projects.

During Phase 2 (October 1 to October 31), inspectors conducted a number of targeted proactive field visits focusing on the enforcement components of the health and safety initiative. The aim was to check whether employers are ensuring that:

  • workers are provided with information, supervision and instruction to mitigate the hazard of being struck by vehicles or equipment
  • construction projects are planned to avoid or reduce the reversing of vehicles or equipment
  • vehicle or equipment operators are aided by signallers if their view is obstructed, or if someone could be endangered by the vehicle, equipment or load.

Also during this phase, Ministry of Labour inspectors:

  • conducted 1,034 field visits with 89 support role activities footnote 1
  • visited 955 construction projects
  • issued 2,209 orders and requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, including 175 stop work orders

Inspectors checked that workplace parties were complying with the OHSA and its regulations at construction projects. This included checking that employers were taking suitable steps to assess and address hazards to protect workers from being struck by vehicles and equipment.

The goals of this health and safety initiative were to:

  • raise awareness of the hazards from reversing vehicles or equipment
  • help constructors, employers, supervisors and workers understand their rights and responsibilities
  • increase workplace compliance with the law
  • help to prevent injuries from unsafe work practices

Equipment operated in reverse

Being struck by reversing vehicles and construction equipment continues to be a leading cause of serious worker injury and deaths at construction projects in Ontario.

Blind spots around construction equipment — especially those directly behind equipment — are a leading cause of struck-by injuries and fatalities. The term ‘struck-by’ refers to instances when a worker is hit or struck by vehicles, equipment or their load.

Operators of vehicles and equipment may not see workers or other people in their path of travel. Workers and pedestrians may be:

  • struck or run over by vehicles and mobile construction equipment
  • crushed between equipment and other objects
  • struck by material moved with construction equipment

Some of the hazards from reversing equipment are caused by:

  • failure to plan and organize construction projects to eliminate or reduce reversing of equipment or vehicles
  • pedestrian walkways that are close to areas where equipment or vehicles operate
  • insufficient warning signs posted in prominent locations to caution people about the hazard where vehicles or equipment may operate in reverse
  • operators not stopping after losing sight of or contact with signallers
  • visibility hazards for equipment operators and workers near equipment
  • workers not using high visibility safety apparel, or wearing apparel that is worn out
  • windows or mirrors that are dirty, damaged or missing

Over the past decade, there have been a number of serious incidents involving workers being struck by equipment and vehicles at construction workplaces in Ontario. Among them are  workers acting as a signaller who have been killed by the equipment or the vehicle they were directing.

In 2017, of the 22 fatalities, nine workers died from being struck by equipment or material at construction projects, including a worker run over by a reversing dump truck.

Full report

Workplace inspection health and safety initiatives

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

Health and safety initiative focus

This initiative focused on raising awareness of key hazards on busy construction sites, and the interaction of equipment that can affect workers on foot, pedestrians and other vehicles.

Phase 1 of the multi-phase initiative took place in the month of September. During this phase, Ministry of Labour inspectors provided additional compliance assistance resources and referrals to the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) during regular inspections. At the same time, the IHSA promoted Ontario’s first-ever webinar on prevention resources for reversing equipment safety which was hosted by the Ministry of Labour and IHSA. The webinar provided information on the safety precautions to be taken when reversing vehicles or mobile equipment, and promoted additional reversing equipment resources to improve safety on construction projects.

Throughout Phase 1 of the multi-phase initiative, ministry inspectors were asked to distribute scannable QR (quick response) code cards which told readers where to get downloadable information on working safely with and around reversing equipment. On one side of the QR code card, the scannable code led workers and workplaces to the Guide to Construction Health and Safety Legislation, and on the other side, the scannable code linked to the IHSA reversing equipment safety webpage.

The QR code cards were part of a larger resource kit developed by the IHSA on working safely around reversing equipment and vehicles. The resource kit contained materials developed by the IHSA to support construction and other workplaces on topics such as traffic controls, hand signalling, struck-by incidents and heavy equipment, and mobile devices. The resource kits were made available free to workplaces upon request. Between September and October 2018, 139 resource kits on the topic of reversing equipment safety were requested by workplaces via the IHSA.

During Phase 1 of the initiative, IHSA’s reversing equipment safety webpage received more than 2,100 page views, with approximately 500 of those views from new visitors. Resources that composed the kit for working safely around reversing equipment and vehicles, were also available as individual documents free on the IHSA website. The individual resources had more than 2,700 downloads between September and October 2018.

During Phase 2 in October 2018, inspectors visited construction projects across Ontario to check that:

  • projects were planned and organized to avoid or reduce the reversing of equipment, machines and vehicles
  • high-visibility clothing was being worn by workers who may be endangered by vehicle traffic
  • employers were providing a signaller, when required, to assist an operator of a vehicle, machine or equipment if the operator’s view was limited or obstructed
  • a signaller was in place to aid an operator when workers or pedestrians may be endangered by vehicles, machines, equipment or a moving load (the signaller and the operator working together to establish signalling procedures, as required)
  • employers were ensuring that operators and signallers were qualified and had adequate training and knowledge to work safely
  • employers were ensuring that equipment was operated and maintained as advised in the manufacturer’s instructions

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

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers for matters of non-compliance with the legal requirements
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply with legal requirements before work could continue

In instances where equipment was operated at construction projects, inspectors issued requirements for employers to provide proof of training of the operators.

Inspection activity summary

Visits to projects

  • 1,034 field visits with 89 support role activities footnote 2
  • 955 visits to construction projects
  • 2,209 orders and requirements issued
    • 2,160 orders issued for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations
    • 49 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 2.31 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 2.14orders and requirements issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

The most frequently issued orders under O. Reg. 213/91: Construction Projects were for:

  • failure to wear personal protective equipment [s. 21–25 of the regulation] — 227 orders or 10.28% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to protect workers from the hazard of falling [s. 26–26.9] — 217 orders or 9.82% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to complete an employer registration form or a notice of project [s. 5 or 6] — 172 orders or 7.79% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to provide compliant ladders [s. 78–84] — 122 orders or 5.52% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to establish written procedures in the event of an emergency [s. 17] — 91 orders or 4.12% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to adequately maintain the workplace and store material properly [s. 35–39] — 82 orders or 3.71% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to maintain or use equipment in accordance with manufacturer instructions [s. 93–95] — 74 orders or 3.35% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to protect workers from excavation hazards [s. 224–239] — 63 orders or 2.85% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • failure to provide compliant access and egress [s. 70–72] — 58 orders or 2.63% of the total orders and requirements issued

Employers’ failure to protect workers from the hazard of being struck by vehicles and equipment or their loads — the focus of this initiative — resulted in 332 orders or 15.03% of the total orders and requirements issued.

The most frequently issued orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act were stop work orders (178 orders or 8.06%) related to serious contraventions:

  • orders that work be stopped until the order to stop work is withdrawn or cancelled by an inspector after an inspection [s. 57(6)(b)] — 96 orders or 4.35% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • orders that a place, equipment, machine, device, article or thing or a process or material not be used until the accompanying order is complied with [s. 57(6)(a)] — 73 orders or 3.30% of the total orders and requirements issued

Observations

Inspectors issued 215 companion orders in relation to the stop work orders:

  • 59 orders or 27% were related to fall hazards
  • 49 orders or 23% were issued in regards to the initiative’s focus to reduce struck-by hazards
  • 22 orders or 10% were related to excavation hazards

Inspectors issued 21 orders under Reg. 856: Roll-Over Protective Structures for operator’s failure to properly use a restraining device (seat belt).

Conclusion and next steps

The results of this initiative show that the operation of equipment and visibility hazards continue to be a key concern at construction projects. Inadequate planning of vehicle and equipment movement at the workplace is an important factor with such hazards. Constructors and employers are encouraged to reduce the operation of vehicle and equipment in reverse and to use a signaller when required. If reversing is absolutely necessary, post signs to warn workers and others of the hazard.

The ministry will continue to raise awareness regarding vehicle and equipment visibility hazards at construction projects, encourage the establishment of a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) in every workplace, and be open to stakeholders’ suggestions and input towards achieving safer and healthier work environments.

Help for employers

Please visit the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association’s reversing equipment safety webpage for more information on the hazards associated with reversing equipment.