Ontario launches Construction Health & Safety Action Plan

By taracurley
In May 9, 2017
On News

Ontario is launching a number of initiatives to prevent worker deaths, injuries and illness in the construction sector as part of Ontario’s Construction Health and Safety Action Plan.

Approximately 85,000 construction workers, or 21% of the current labour force, are expected to retire over the next 10 years. At the same time, the province’s construction labour force will need to grow by approximately 23,000 workers to meet the demands created by increased construction activity. As a result, Ontario will need to attract about 110,000 new construction workers by providing opportunities for young workers or newcomers.

Approximately 30% of all work-related traumatic fatalities and occupational disease fatality claims for Schedule 1 workplaces in Ontario occurred in the construction sector, yet the sector comprises only 6.7% of all provincial employment and 8.4% of WSIB-insured employment. In the construction sector:

  • 36% of traumatic fatalities are due to falls from heights
  • 51% of fatal occupational disease claims are for Mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos
  • 53% of non-fatal occupational disease claims are associated with noise-induced hearing loss.

Created with input from construction employers, workers and other industry stakeholders, Ontario’s plan contains 16 recommendations to strengthen the prevention of work-related injury and illness for construction workers on sites of all sizes across the province.

Recommendations are grouped under two overarching goals; each has three objectives:

1. More knowledgeable and skilled system and sector:

  • enhancing the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) by strengthening values and attitudes towards health and safety
  • increasing access to new, updated and existing resources
  • enhancing the training and education of the sector.

2. Increased construction sector compliance:

  • ensuring regulatory requirements are up-to- date and effectively communicated and understood
  • ensuring appropriate penalties and incentives to motivate compliance
  • conducting strategic enforcement initiatives that are focused on priorities.

“Construction deaths continue to be unacceptably high. 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,”

said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

Through these recommendations the government and its safety partners are working to develop online tools, apps and web portals to provide easy access to construction health and safety information such as key hazards.

The government is also exploring options for increasing and expanding fines for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation for Construction Projects as well as consulting with stakeholders on an accreditation program that would recognize employers who successfully implement occupational health and safety programs.

It also wants to embed construction health and safety topics in existing school curricula and apprenticeship training programs.

“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. We are working towards full implementation,” said George Gritziotis, chief prevention officer.

A number of initiatives in the Construction Health and Safety Action Plan have already been completed to implement some of the recommendations, including: training, blitzes and underground economy enforcement by the Ministry of Labour targeting working at heights and residential roofing projects; implementing an advanced training program for construction supervisors to improve their skills in communicating health and safety information to workers; and establishing Ministry of Labour partnerships with municipalities to pilot a web-based software program that enables municipal building inspectors to report unsafe work practices to the ministry.

Full construction Health & Safety Action Plan can be downloaded here.