According to the Ministry of Labour (the “MOL”), approximately thirty (30) percent of all work-related traumatic fatalities and occupational disease fatality claims occur in Ontario’s construction sector. However, Statistics Canada has confirmed that construction sector jobs account for less than seven (7) percent of employment in Ontario. According to the WSIB, thirty-six (36) percent of traumatic fatalities allowed by WSIB were due to falls from heights because of inappropriate fall protection.
In 2015, the Ontario legislature presented Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn with a mandate letter stating that the province’s chief prevention officer would be working with the construction sector on improving workplace safety. After consulting with industry stakeholders, Mr. Flynn indicated that the number of deaths and serious injuries in the construction sector continued to be “unacceptably high”.
On May 12, 2017, the Ministry of Labour announced an action plan entitled the “Construction Health and Safety Action Plan” (the “Action Plan”). The Action Plan contains sixteen (16) recommendations. Of those recommendations, the MOL has already implemented the following measures to reduce the frequency of construction industry workplace injuries:
- Developing a web tool by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) and Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety to help construction employers and workers understand key topics in the regulation for construction projects
- Conducting training, blitzes and underground economy enforcement by the Ministry of Labour targeting working at heights and residential roofing projects
- Launching radio and online campaigns to raise awareness about new working-at-heights training requirements
- Launching an IHSA media campaign on public transit to improve the culture for working safely
- Implementing an advanced training program for construction supervisors to improve their skills in communicating health and safety information to workers
- 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
- Establishing a Ministry of Labour partnership with the City of Toronto to promote health and safety resources and information
The MOL has indicated that it is currently working toward implementing the remaining recommendations contained within the Action Plan:
- Develop online tools, apps and web portals to provide easy access to construction health and safety information such as key hazards
- Conduct multi-media campaigns and targeted enforcement blitzes to raise awareness of construction health and safety and key hazards
- Explore options for increasing and expanding fines for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation for Construction Projects
- Consider roof anchors and other solutions for working at heights to prevent falls, which are the number one cause of construction deaths
- Embed construction health and safety topics in existing school curricula and apprenticeship training programs
- Consult with stakeholders on an accreditation program that would recognize employers who successfully implement occupational health and safety programs
- Create and better distribute resources to fill gaps in existing health and safety information for employers and workers
After implementing the above recommendations, the Ministry of Labour will attempt to achieve the following Key Performance Indicators (“KPIs”) over the next five years:
- Reduce the allowed lost-time injury rate per 100 workers by 10% over five years (through robust education, training and certification programs and enforcement).
- Reduce traumatic fatalities per 100,000 workers by 2% over five years (through education, training, certification programs and enforcement).
- Increase number of businesses engaged by the H&S system in Ontario by 15% over four years.
The MOL has made it clear that strict enforcement and deterrence will continue to be its principal strategy with respect to ensuring that each of the aforesaid KPIs is satisfied. We anticipate that the MOL will continue to issue substantial fines against construction industry employers who are found to have breached the OHSA.
We anticipate that the MOL will continue to publish interim reports indicating whether the above recommendations have resulted in a decrease in work related injury and disease in the construction sector. We will provide continuing coverage of this topic as and when further information is provided by the MOL and/or the WSIB.
Tushar Anandasagar is an associate lawyer at LeClair and Associates P.C. He specializes in Labour and Employment law, with a focus on Workplace Policy Development and Regulatory Compliance. For further information, please contact Tushar by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Tushar Anandasagar | LeClair and Associates