Construction Safety Inspection Blitzes

Job Safety Blitz

Slip, trips and falls on level surfaces and falls from heights, particularly in construction, remain the number one cause of critical injuries and fatalities, when the rates of other types of workplace injuries are decreasing more quickly.

In 2011, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board approved 11,733 compensation claims for lost-time injuries due to incidents in which workers fell while at work. Same level falls resulting from slips and trips account for 65% of all fall-related injuries. Falls from heights account for 34% of fall-related injuries – and many of the work-related deaths that occur in Ontario.

“These workers deserve to be protected from these potential hazards in the workplace,” says Robert W. Landry, provincial Construction Health and Safety specialist with the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of Ontario’s Ministry of Labour.

During February and March, Ontario’s Safe at Work program is stepping up its workplace safety, prevention and enforcement strategy with Inspection Blitzes focusing on the hazards and risks involving slips, trips and falls, and ladder use in the construction and industrial sectors.

“This inspection campaign is to reduce overall lost-time workplace injuries and accidents. It’s an enforcement strategy, a prevention strategy. These fall rates seem to be constant and we’re struggling with that,” Landry says.

Ministry inspectors will randomly visit construction projects that are doing high-risk work and with histories of non-compliance to check that employers, supervisors and workers are complying with Ontario Health and Safety Act requirements and regulations.

Workers can be at risk of falling due to:

  • Poor lighting, slippery surfaces, inadequate “housekeeping” (a messy, cluttered work area) and other such deficient working conditions
  • Missing protective devices (e.g., guardrails)
  • Unguarded openings in floors, work surfaces or walls of buildings or other structures
  • Misused equipment or equipment in poor condition (e.g., ladders, scaffolds, and suspended access equipment)
  • Lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (equipment not available, not used, or misused)
  • Poor work practices (e.g., unclear job procedures, lack of training, or workers rushing to meet deadlines)

Inspectors will be looking for “any evidence of lack of traction” between footwear and surfaces – wet floors, puddles, and oily or icy surfaces. Construction workers must wear suitable CSA-approved footwear – boots, not shoes, which should be “slip-resistant, not worn, not defective, and properly fitting,” Landry says. “Laces should be tied securely, because if they’re not tied, footwear could fall off, or workers could trip. Most important, these boots must be worn at all times on a construction project.”

These inspections, which can take up to two days, go into considerable depth, Landry says. “We know the non-compliant sites and workplaces and our inspectors will want specifics.”

On site, ministry inspectors ask to meet with Project Supervisors, Health and Safety Supervisors, and health and safety worker representatives. They will check minutes of health and safety meetings; ask about fall accidents and how they were addressed.

Inspectors will also be checking to make sure employers are providing safe and appropriate equipment for their workers, as well as safety training, supervision and instruction materials to protect their workers’ health and safety on the job.

In order to check a worker’s safety competency, inspectors may ask them to demonstrate their knowledge on:

  • How to recognize, assess, and control fall hazards
  • The application of the right controls, including effective fall prevention and fall protection methods (Employers must also provide hands-on training that is equipment- and application-specific.)
  • Proficiency in the safe and proper use of personal fall prevention and fall protection systems and their components – travel restraint, fall restricting, fall arrest systems or safety nets. Workers must be competent and have the skills and expertise to select, inspect, set-up, and use appropriate fall prevention and fall protection systems
  • How to work at heights safely and in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulatory requirements
  • Access equipment: safe use of ladders, scaffolds, elevating work platforms, and suspended access equipment.

Ladder safety, in particular, poses significant fall hazards in construction, Landry says.

“There have been a high number of incidents, where workers were critically injured or killed in falls from ladders,” Landry says.

In the five-year period from 2006 to May 2010, there were 396 fall incidents causing critical injuries and 127 of those were from ladders – 32 per cent of these accidents were caused by the unsafe use of ladders.

During that same period of time, there were 83 fatalities and 10 were from the unsafe use of ladders.

“We’ve worked with industry representatives and our partners at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association to develop a Ladder Use in Construction Guideline,” Landry says. “This guideline was prepared to assist workplace parties in understanding their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Construction Regulation. The Ministry of Labour views the guideline as a set of industry practices that when implemented as part of a constructor/employer’s health and safety program will help in reducing workplace accidents involving ladders.”

In cases of non-compliance, Ministry of Labour Inspectors will be issuing tickets on the spot during this enforcement campaign. These tickets, for a variety of offences, range from $195 for failing to wear protective footwear to $295 failing to wear a full body harness connected to fall arrest system while on suspended equipment.

“During this blitz, we want the message to be to get your safety plans in order, get your managers and supervisors on site up to speed,” Landry says. “Because falls are one of the leading causes of death and injury, our inspectors are always enforcing fall protection. Sometimes people cut corners for production, but you don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.”

Comments

  1. I am glad that someone is taking workplace safety seriously. There are several OSHA guideline for workplace safety but only few people follow those guidelines. Imposing fine is an effective way to raise awareness about workplace safety.

    • Evelyn Stefov says:

      This is an excellent article and clearly illustrates why we all should pay attention to safety hazards present at the workplace. There are just too many injuries.. These injuries andall the pain and the suffering may be avoided if all parties take safety seriously.

      • Sandy Naiman says:

        Hi Evelyn,

        Thank you. Your kind words, I must admit, are music to my ears.

        All of us, here, at Job Safety, are working hard to raise awareness and to write informative and useful articles that will help to decrease workplace injuries and accidents, pain and suffering. We’re serious because those incidents are serious. In human terms and for businesses.

        We thrive on your feedback and I want to stress how much we appreciate your compliments and/or any suggestions or concerns you have about what we write here.

        Job Safety is really an online community as well as a magazine. By commenting here, you’re relationship-building.

        You have no idea how valued your comment is to me and to our whole team. As well, between you and me, it made my day! :)

        Thanks again, take care and be safe.

        Best,

        Sandy

    • Sandy Naiman says:

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for your comment and your encouragement.

      Yes, we are all seriously concerned about workplace safety here. That is our ethos. We’re looking at workplace safety from a variety of viewpoints and compliance is extremely important to us.

      Certainly, “imposing fines” is one way to raise awareness. There are others, like training, education and understanding why workplace safety is so critical and helping all workers and managers to take responsibility for the safety of everyone with whom they work. To prevent accidents and injuries. To be accountable.

      You know, I’m sure, that if you get caught speeding and you’re issued a ticket and a fine, you’ll be more careful about speeding – at least in the location where you were ticketed.

      We hope that by raising awareness here, we can go further and help people to make safety a priority, a habit, a commitment, all the time. Everywhere.

      We want every worker to get home safely every day, and that means making safety a 24/7 proposition. At work and at home.

      I hope you will keep reading and commenting. We learn so much for your contributions here.

      Take care and be safe.

      Sandy

  2. Kelly O'Connell says:

    This is an excellent and very informative article. The message is very clear as to what can happen when safety is not taken seriously. The Occupational Health and Safey Act requirements and Regulations must be complied with. As Mr. Landry stated ” you don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.”

    • Sandy Naiman says:

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for your encouraging words.

      I’m glad you noted Robert Landry’s quote, “You don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.”

      In much of the research we have done here, “cutting corners” to save time too often results in injuries and accidents.

      We are all in such a hurry these days and saving time at work, particularly in high risk industries like construction, can be disastrous and sometimes, tragically, deadly.

      The OHSA requirements and regulations should be understood by everyone, and it’s the responsibility of supervisors and safety engineers to ensure their workers know and understand them. Tony Dean’s 2010 report and its 46 recommendations are changing Ontario’s workplaces. Change is never easy but it’s imperative. You can’t stand still these days.

      Other provinces are working hard to improve the way workers are trained to be safe, and to follow their OHSA regulations, but the bottom line begins with the line you so astutely quoted. “You don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.” That’s a great slogan, isn’t it?

      It’s very rewarding to know, as a writer, that one’s message is getting through. You have confirmed that and thanks, profoundly, for taking the time to let me know.

      Best wishes,

      Sandy

  3. Reading the article about Construction Safety with all the after the event happenings , Hurt , Fines and should haves is a reminder that some Industries have not crossed the threshhold of Caring about thier people. What do you think the difference would be if we had a clear objective by ALL to not be hurt ,have well Trained people ,obeyed the Law , had well tested work Practices and processes, Excellent Leadership who from the Top Walk the Talk , All Leaders are seen to be Safety Zealots , role of a Safety advisor to advise and not do the Supervisors job ,no work commenced until all agree hazards are controlled and a JSA done for any NEW ,Real Time Hazards. At this timewe can look each other in the eye andbe confident that who ever arrives at the Job will be made a key member of the work group.
    What would the Statistics be Now ?

    • Sandy Naiman says:

      Hi Ray,

      Thank you for your spirited and penetrating comment.

      You sound as passionate about occupational health and workplace safety as we are. What you describe, the ideal in a perfect world, is a powerful reminder of how far we have to go. That’s why we’re here, doing what we do.

      Here’s the thing. We’re also human, by definition, flawed. There are days when even the most highly trained and committed safety leaders and “zealots” simply aren’t at their best for reasons that make us human. Distractions, problems at home, any number of things. One thing you didn’t mention, though you hint at it, is that safety has to be 24/7 to be most effective. “Walking the Talk,” with everyone having “clear objectives” to prevent injuries, starts with safety advisors, engineers, and people in leadership positions who think and behave “safely” all the time – at work, at home, getting there and back, and on weekends – from 9 to 5 and from 5 to 9. These are the people who mentor every worker who comes on site. They set the examples and motivate everyone.

      You touch on one of the most important points about job safety – teamwork – and being able to trust and have confidence in your fellow workers.

      All in all, Ray, you’ve added your perceptive voice to this discussion and I sincerely hope you’ll keep reading us and keep “talking.”

      Thanks again.

      Best,
      Sandy

  4. HI Sandy!
    First I want to say that we are carpentry crew (6 people)working in GTA, we never cut corners when it comes to safety, we work mostly directly for home builders (private) and when I hear about inspection blitzes I see inspector like last Friday on our site (private residential project), he arrived in white 2013 CHEVROLET , parked the car at 10.20 (probably just after his break) threw his empty coffee cup over the window and said “who is in charge in here” I went down to him explained the situation and hi told me to call owner/builder. Owner arrived, inspector ask him for supervisor training certificate,hi didn’t have, so inspector said “site is close, everybody out”.Builder did certificate within 2 hrs.,instructor came show him video gave him paper, since than they can’t reopen the site builder is sending/ faxing/ emailing papers to ministry of labour they keep saying tomorrow , tomorrow and tomorrow is Thursday and 6 people siting home waiting for safety inspector to arrive maybe tomorrow to let us work (that’s reality). 11 733 compensation- how many are real injuries how many fake, I heard lots of stories from construction guys around for last 25 years on the job “how to get some money and sit home”. INSPECTION BLITZES, why in February and March not all year long, why not late in December (they have Christmas) when we work, why not January ( to cold for them) when we work, why not June July,August (to hot,vacation) when we work.We all want to live so we do everything keep construction site safe (specially on small project) so please let us work and go after big fish.

  5. Noor Zaman Khan says:

    Hi,
    Safety is most important then anything else. very informative article and valued comments. it It is best effort for safety guys.

    I am working as HSE Manager , so safety job is mixed in my blood.

    wish you all the best.

    • Sandy Naiman says:

      Hi Noor,

      Thank you for your supportive and kinds words about our work here at Job Safety.

      It’s great that safety is “mixed” in your blood. That way, you will definitely make a real effort to ensure that safety plays a major role at your company and your workers are given every opportunity to work safe and go home safely every day.

      Keep up the good work.

      Best,
      sln

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