Inspection Blitz Aims to Make Ontario Construction Sites Safer

The construction industry faces a lot of challenges when it comes to workplace safety. While Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer recently noted that 2019 saw some improvements over 2018 in terms of fatalities in this sector, the Ministry of Labour admits there is “high potential for injury, given the nature and conditions of the work.”

Following a month of education and outreach to the construction sector, workplace inspectors are now halfway through a safety blitz (also known as “focused inspections”). This blitz has a special focus on personal protective equipment (PPE), or more specifically, “the lack and misuse of personal protective equipment such as foot, eye, hearing and respiratory protection devices.”

Why is PPE compliance being targeted? In 2017, the Ministry issued more than 7000 orders related to PPE violations, and this was the second highest category of violations that year (the top violation category was falls protection).

Inspectors will be out looking for employers who are not providing proper PPE and workers who are not using it. In addition to hard hats and boots, which are required by law at project sites, PPE can include:

  • respiratory protection devices (e.g., respirators)
  • hearing protectors
  • skin protection devices (e.g., gloves or protective clothing)
  • high visibility clothing
  • face shields
  • eye protection devices (for example, eye shields)

The blitz is part of Ontario’s “Safe at Work” strategy. Construction workplaces are not the only sector that the Ministry of Labour is focused on. Every year the Ministry’s workplace compliance initiatives target a series of different sectors and different compliance focuses.  The themes and sectors are announced ahead of time, but individual workplaces are not.

Aside from respecting all safety protocols and procedures at work, perhaps the most important thing for workers to remember about workplace safety is that they have the right to refuse unsafe work.

What exactly are your safety-related rights at work? Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you have several:

  • The right to know about hazards in your workplace and to be trained how to protect yourself from harm.
  • The right to refuse unsafe work, including situations where you believe you’re in danger of workplace violence. You can’t be fired, disciplined, or otherwise penalized for refusing unsafe work.
  • The right to participate, by helping identify and resolve workplace health and safety concerns, asking questions, raising concerns and giving feedback.

This poster from Workers Health & Safety Centre has a good “Right to Refuse” resource that may be helpful to you.