Specialized Professional Services Unit
Learn how Ministry of Labour ergonomists, occupational hygienists, engineers and radiation protection officers help protect worker health and safety.
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The Specialized Professional Services Unit provides technical support and expertise to Ministry of Labour regional staff in the industrial, construction, mining and health care programs.
The Specialized Professional Services Unit provides services in five key areas:
- occupational hygiene
- radiation protection
- emergency management
The Specialized Professional Services Unit:
- enforces occupational hygiene, safety and ergonomics in workplaces
- provides expert professional advice on engineering, occupational hygiene, radiation protection and ergonomics for the ministry’s enforcement activities
- develops guidelines and best practices documents with health and safety associations and other professional organizations about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), occupational disease and exposure to complex machinery and equipment, chemicals and radiation
- helps develop standards, guidelines, regulations, codes of practice and operating policies
- provides expert witness testimony during appeals before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the courts
Ministry of Labour ergonomists provide technical support to ministry inspectors and conduct inspections focusing on ergonomics. Supporting inspectors and responding to events such as complaints, work refusals, injuries, and fatalities are the ministry’s ergonomists’ highest priorities.
Occupational ergonomics focuses on interactions between workers and workplace elements such as equipment, work stations, work processes and environmental influences.
Effective ergonomics enhance worker well-being and overall performance and reduce the risk of MSDs and acute injuries (for example falls, burns and vehicular accidents).
Workplace changes in demographics, equipment and technology make it even more crucial for workplaces to address ergonomics and MSD prevention.
For more information, see Musculoskeletal disorders / ergonomics.
Construction, health care, mining and industrial sector inspectors conduct proactive and reactive workplace inspections. They check compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and relevant regulations, including requirements to prevent hazards due to poor ergonomics.
Ministry of Labour ergonomists provide professional and technical support to inspectors during program and regional enforcement and compliance initiatives and during investigations.
Occupational hygiene services
Ministry of Labour occupational hygienists provide technical support to ministry inspectors. They also conduct inspections, investigations and industry-wide air quality surveys to identify and assess the risk factors which contribute to occupational diseases and illnesses among workers.
They focus on industrial hygiene to protect workers from chemical, biological and physical agents such as noise that can make them ill.
Occupational hygienists are designated by Health Canada as Hazardous Products Act inspectors. They have a mandate to investigate supplier labels and WHMIS Materials Safety Data Sheets and Safety Data Sheets. This includes handling requests from other provinces using the inter-jurisdictional referral process.
To assess occupational health hazards and control associated risks, inspectors enforce:
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- O. Reg. 632/05 – Confined Spaces
- O. Reg. 381/15 – Noise
- O. Reg. 490/09 – Designated Substance Regulation
- Reg. 833 – Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents
- Reg. 860 – Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
- Relevant occupational hygiene sections of sector regulations dealing with chemical handling, engineering controls and personal protective equipment
Construction, health care, mining and industrial sector inspectors conduct proactive and reactive workplace inspections. They check compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and relevant regulations, including those related to occupational hygiene issues.
Occupational hygienists provide professional and technical support to inspectors during program and regional enforcement and compliance initiatives.
Employers must continually introduce new and advanced technologies due to the competitive global economy and constant advances in manufacturing, mining, health care and construction.
By law, only licensed professional engineers can undertake and be responsible for engineering work in Ontario. Ministry of Labour engineers support ministry inspectors during inspections and investigations involving engineering issues.
Ministry engineers review engineering work performed by other parties when unsafe conditions, injuries or failures may be attributable to unsafe design or engineering practices.
When ministry inspectors encounter complex new and changing technologies, they may call on ministry engineers to address any associated health and safety risks.
Ministry engineers also help update regulatory requirements when there are changes in technology and methodology so that workers are protected from new hazards.
Field engineers provide inspection support for:
- electrical hazards on construction sites
- mobile cranes and material hoisting
- concrete forming
- materials handling in industry
- industrial machinery
- racking and mezzanine structure
- chemical exposure
- mobile equipment
- material tramming in underground and surface mines
- safe work practices in mine plants
- remote mucking in underground mines
- structural safety of buildings
Radiation Protection Services
Radiation Protection Field Services (RPFS) staff administer and enforce:
- occupational X-ray safety under Regulation 861 – X-ray Safety
- safety requirements to protect against ionizing radiation (naturally occurring radioactive materials, or NORM) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
- safety requirements to protect against non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic extremely low and very low frequency, radio-frequency, microwave, magnetic resonance imaging, ultra-violet, laser) under the OHSA
RPFS staff includes radiation protection officers (RPOs) who are appointed as inspectors under the OHSA and provincial offences officers under the Provincial Offences Act. RPOs can lay charges for violations of the OHSA and its regulations.
RPOs specialize in:
- dealing with ionizing and non-ionizing radiation to protect workers’ safety at Ontario workplaces
- conducting proactive inspections and reactive investigations to address workers’ concerns and work refusals
- registering employers who have an X-ray source
- reviewing/accepting installation plans of X-ray sources used in veterinary, industrial, analytical and training applications
X-ray, non-ionizing radiation and NORM sources can be found in virtually every sector of the economy, and the number of employers with X-ray machines continues to increase every year.
Key sectors with X-ray sources include:
- health care sector such as hospitals and radiological clinics (human medical and dental)
- industrial sector such as veterinary clinics, thickness gauges in steel/coating, fill-height detection in bottling/canning, and contaminant detection in food processing
- educational sector such as training of X-ray operators in medical, dental, forensic, chiropractic fields and post-secondary colleges and universities
- construction sector such as industrial radiography of buildings, pipelines, etc.
- analytical services sector such as quality assurance/control, investigation in major manufacturing, testing and research
- policing sector such as courthouse security screening, public buildings security screening, correctional centres security screening including whole body scanners, and bomb detection
Radiation-related injury and illness
Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as X-rays, can cause cancer, genetic damage, tissue damage or - in unborn children - developmental defects. These can also be caused by external gamma radiation exposure and/or internal alpha/beta particle radiation exposure from inhaling/ingesting NORM.
Exposure to non-ionizing radiation including high-powered lasers in industrial, medical, cosmetic and research applications may injure skin and eyes. Radio frequency/microwave exposure can heat tissue and lead to heat stress. Ultraviolet radiation can induce cancer and damage skin and eyes.