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Ontario launches blitz of construction projects

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

The province of Ontario has launched a province-wide safety blitz of construction projects at commercial and industrial facilities to ensure they have the proper protections in place to keep workers safe.

Throughout the month of January, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors are examining a range of workplaces that are undergoing major renovations, repairs or additions. The MOL said in a statement that inspectors are ensuring that workers are protected from airborne substances, hazardous materials and extreme noise levels, among other risks.

“Workers can be exposed to construction hazards created by high noise levels, construction traffic and dangerous substances such as asbestos, lead and silica,” George Gritziotis, the province’s chief prevention officer, said in the statement. “We’re working to improve the health and safety of workers in Ontario.”

Other hazards include slips, trips or falls due to debris or uneven walking surfaces; excavated materials or other objects falling on workers; mishandled or poorly-placed materials; hazardous atmospheres, such as those containing noxious gases or a lack of oxygen; electrical cord hazards; toxic, irritating, flammable and explosive gases; incidents involving vehicles and other mobile equipment; blocked access and egress routes; or unsafe use of propane heaters.

A backgrounder from the MOL said that during the blitz, inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:

* Noise exposure — Ensuring that constructors and employers are taking appropriate precautions to maintain noise within permissible levels as required;

* Airborne substance exposure — Checking that construction workers and employers are taking precautions to protect workers from exposure to airborne substances created by activities such as cutting, grinding and polishing materials;

* Hazardous materials/designated substances — Inspectors will check that the Regulations for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System are being followed when controlled products are used. This will include checking for supplier and workplace labels, confirming availability of material safety data sheets and WHMIS training and checking that required controls are in place for designated substances;

* Storage and movement of equipment and material — Checking that workers and employers are protecting other workers when equipment and materials are stored and moved, including the effectiveness of the separation between the existing workplace and construction activities;

* Personal protective equipment (PPE) — Checking on the availability of PPE and that workers have been trained on its use and limitations; and

* Administrative issues — Ensuring that emergency contingency plans are in place and that those plans have been communicated to workers and others at the workplace.

In particular, the backgrounder said, inspectors will target workplaces where major construction projects are taking place and those not previously visited by the MOL; where complaints have been received; where there is a history of non-compliance; and those that have submitted a Notice of Project to the ministry.

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violation of provincial occupational health and safety rules.

Since 2008, the ministry has conducted 59 inspection blitzes and more than 345,000 field visits, the statement said.