The provincial government has released its Construction Health and Safety Action Plan with 16 recommendations to help to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities for workers on construction sites across the province.
Some of the recommendations that Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says the province has already started implementing include:
- Developing a web tool and mobile app to help employers and workers understand their health and safety obligations and rights for specific construction projects;
- Building an online portal that allows building inspectors to report unsafe work practices to the government; and
- Increasing awareness about working-at-heights training requirements.
Flynn announced the new action plan May 11 at the construction site for the new courthouse in Toronto.
“Construction deaths continue to be unacceptably high,” Flynn said in a statement. “We are committed to preventing tragedy so construction workers can go home safe and sound at the end of each work day. To do this, we must all work together. We all have a role and responsibility to make our workplaces healthy and safe.”
The recommendations include:
- Create a culture and climate of safety within construction by planning, creating and supporting ongoing multi-media OHS (occupational health and safety) awareness campaigns that promote the importance of workplace occupational health and safety with industry stakeholders as well as consumers;
- Increase safety knowledge in the construction sector by promoting awareness of the top construction sector hazards (falls from heights, motor vehicle incidents, struck by objects, machinery) and how to control these hazards through new and improved information channels, including industry, government and other stakeholder partnerships;
- Support the role of the supervisor in creating and maintaining a culture that fosters worker participation in identifying and mitigating workplace hazards;
- Identify and develop “workplace friendly” resource tools focused on the top hazards in construction (falls from heights, motor vehicle incidents, struck by-object, machinery), with a particular focus on small- and medium-size businesses;
- Build and support multi-stakeholder partnerships and distribution channels that enable better flow of health and safety resources;
- Create a strategy for career-long health and safety learning for the construction sector;
- Develop stronger partnerships with the education system to reach students, teachers and employers that participate in construction-directed experiential learning programs;
- Identify, review and enhance health and safety content of apprenticeship training standards;
- The Ministry of Labour (MOL) is to work with health and safety (H&S) system partners to create plain language resources materials on high priority hazards to help small- and medium-size employers interpret existing legislative and regulatory requirements and understand what is required to comply;
- The MOL to support the development of guidance material, in future, when making regulatory changes to assist the construction sector in complying with new requirements;
- The CPO (Chief Prevention Officer) to work with stakeholders to improve the use and design of fall protection equipment in the residential construction and roofing sectors by: i. Exploring opportunities to work with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to require fall-arrest anchor points on residential low-rise buildings including single family residences. Ministry of Labour Construction Health and Safety Action Plan ii. Collaborating with engineering and fall protection system experts to find innovative approaches to the use of existing equipment as well as the development of alternative approaches to preventing fall of workers from residential roofs;
- MOL to explore opportunities to work with Ministry of the Attorney General and stakeholders to expand the application of tickets to a broader range of contraventions of the construction project regulation and increase the current fine amounts;
- MOL to work with stakeholders to explore the use of administrative monetary penalties under the OHSA and identify specific offences to apply them to the construction sector;
- The CPO to explore opportunities to work with stakeholders to create incentives that motivate excellence in health and safety beyond minimum compliance, such as accreditation;
- The MOL to conduct strategic enforcement campaigns in construction based on risks and high hazards for the sector on continuous basis; and
- Enhance information sharing within OHS system and other stakeholders to support blitzes and other targeted enforcement.
“The challenge going forward will be to communicate these recommendations to our members and to see if we can get them moving towards strengthening their health and safety programs and bringing a culture of health and safety to life on their worksites,” Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA), was quoted as saying in a published report. Cunningham said the thorough review reflected COCA’s comments during the process.
“This Action Plan is designed to ensure the health and safety of all construction workers through more targeted enforcement, exploring opportunities to expand the application of tickets, enhanced worker awareness and training by building partnerships and ensuring effective outreach strategies,” Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis said in a statement. “We are working towards full implementation.”
In background information, the government says that about 30 per cent of all work-related traumatic fatalities and occupational disease fatality claims for workplaces in Ontario occurred in the construction sector, yet it comprises only 6.7 per cent of all provincial employment and 8.4 per cent of WSIB-insured employment. Within the construction sector, 36 per cent of traumatic fatalities allowed by WSIB were due to falls from heights.