Workers can be at risk of serious injuries, occupational diseases or even death if hazards exist when handling chemicals in workplaces.
From September 19 to October 31, 2016, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted an enforcement blitz targeting chemical handling hazards at industrial workplaces in Ontario. The inspectors checked that employers were taking appropriate action to assess and address these hazards.
The blitz’s goals were to:
- raise awareness of chemical handling hazards in workplaces
- increase workplace compliance with the safe handling and use of chemicals
- prevent worker injuries, illness and death
This blitz was part of the government’s continued commitment to preventing workplace injuries and illness through its Safe At Work Ontario enforcement initiative.
From 2005 to 2014, 16,207 workers received chemical-related injuries resulting in lost time at work due to exposure to caustic, noxious or allergenic substances, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
Proper chemical handling involves having effective engineering controls, good work practices, appropriate personal protective equipment and appropriate worker training in the workplace.
In September and October, 2016, inspectors conducted 803 proactive field visits to 638 workplaces and issued a total of 2,887 orders  under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. This included 47 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times.
The top three most frequently issued orders involved employers’ failure to ensure:
- equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer were maintained in good condition
- workers completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program
- every reasonable precaution in the circumstances was taken for the protection of workers
Workplace inspection blitzes
Inspection blitzes are part of the province's Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces to be visited by inspectors are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry's website.
The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and are intended to promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.
Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.
During the blitz, Ministry of Labour inspectors focused on workplaces in the following sectors:
- tourism, hospitality and recreational services
- chemical, rubber and plastics
- wood and metal fabrication
- service sector
In particular, the blitz targeted workplaces:
- with a history of lost-time injuries (LTIs) related to the use and handling of chemicals
- known to handle a variety of workplace chemicals
- not previously visited by the ministry
- where complaints regarding chemical handling have been received
- where there is a history of non-compliance
Inspectors checked that employers, supervisors, and workers were complying with requirements for safe chemical handling under the OHSA and its regulations. They focused on the following key priorities:
- Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS): Inspectors checked that employers had trained their workers on chemical hazards, including procedures for the safe use, storage, handling and disposal of hazardous/controlled products. They also checked that appropriate hazard information for these products was provided on supplier/workplace labels and safety data sheets.
- Labelling: Inspectors checked that controlled/hazardous products that were “decanted” (moved into smaller containers from a bulk supply) had appropriate workplace labels.
- Engineering controls: Inspectors verified that engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation, were in place, operating and maintained to limit worker exposure to airborne contaminants, when needed.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): Inspectors checked that employers were providing appropriate PPE and that workers were wearing and using the PPE. Inspectors also checked that required eyewash fountains and deluge showers were provided and maintained.
- Housekeeping: Inspectors verified that employers considered chemical compatibility when storing chemicals. The inspectors checked that proper storage for flammable liquids was provided, good housekeeping practices were in place and emergency spill cleanup procedures were implemented when needed.
- Material handling: Inspectors checked that employers had appropriate precautions and safeguards in place for the movement of chemicals in the workplace.
- Internal Responsibility System (IRS): Inspectors verified that employers, supervisors and workers were aware of their OHSA roles and responsibilities. They also verified that required Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) or health and safety representatives (HSRs) were in place, where appropriate, and were functioning properly.
- Worker training: Inspectors checked that employers were providing information and instruction to workers to perform material handling tasks safely. This included providing mandatory basic awareness occupational health and safety training as well as training on the use and fit of PPE, safe work practices and spill cleanup.
- Workplace supervision: Inspectors checked that supervisors had completed the mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training.
Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the OHSA and its regulations.
From September 19, 2016 to October 31, 2016, ministry inspectors conducted 803 proactive field visits to 638 workplaces and issued 2,887 orders under the OHSA and its regulations.
On average, 4.53 orders were issued per workplace. Some of the workplaces were visited several times, with an average of 3.6 orders issued per field visit.
Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors.
|Sector||Orders Issued ||Stop Work Orders Issued||Requirements||Workplaces Visited|
|Wood and Metal Fabrication||466||10||12||76|
|Tourism, Hospitality and Recreational Services||292||1||3||58|
|Chemical, Rubber and Plastics||246||0||6||45|
|Vehicle Sales and Service||161||1||1||41|
|Food, Beverage and Tobacco||146||3||2||20|
|Reason for Order||Number of Orders||Percentage Total Orders Issued |
|Failure to prevent access to moving parts of equipment that may endanger a worker [Section 24]||132||4.57%|
|Failure to provide an eyewash fountain where a worker is exposed to a potential hazard of injury to the eye due to contact with a biological or chemical substance [Section 124]||116||4.02%|
|Failure to ensure lifting devices are examined by a competent person and safely operated within their load capacity [Section 51]||90||3.12%|
|Failure to keep floors or other surfaces free of obstructions or hazards [Section 11]||84||2.91%|
|Failure to prevent access to a machine’s pinch point by using a guard or other device [Section 25]||80||2.77%|
|Failure to ensure movement, transport or storage of materials, articles or things are done in a manner that will not endanger a worker [Section 45]||60||2.08%|
|Failure to ensure material that may endanger a worker by tipping and falling is secured [Section 46]||41||1.42%|
|Failure to ensure proper storage and transport of compressed gases [Section 49]||40||1.39%|
|Failure to ensure proper storage of flammable liquids [Section 22]||35||1.21%|
|Failure to ensure ladder safety [Section 73]||34||1.18%|
Of the 2,887 orders issued:
- 11.01 per cent (318 orders) were issued under Part III.0.1 of the OHSA provisions for workplace violence and harassment. They involved employers’ failure to comply with requirements to:
- have workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
- assess or re-assess the risks of workplace violence arising from the workplace’s nature, type of work or conditions of work
- provide information and instruction to workers on the workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs
- 9.77 per cent (282 orders) were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation for violations involving:
- basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers (153 orders or 5.30 per cent of the 2,887 total orders)
- basic occupational health and safety awareness training for supervisors (123 orders or 4.26 per cent of the 2,887 total orders)
- training records (six orders or 0.26 per cent of the 2,887 total orders)
- 1.63 per cent (47 orders) were stop work orders issued for workplace hazards, including exposed live electrical components, storage racking, ladders, lifting devices, machinery and the use of chemicals.
- 231 orders were issued under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Regulation(eight per cent of total orders issued) with:
- about 42 per cent (97 orders) for failing to provide instruction to workers and
- about 56 per cent (129 orders) for violations related to failing to provide hazardous product labelling and lack of material safety data sheets and/or safety data sheets
Employers need to be diligent in ensuring equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition. Increased attention is required to train workers to prevent chemical handling injuries, occupational illness and even death. This includes basic awareness and training related to chemicals in use in the workplace and use/care of PPE.
The ministry will continue to raise awareness of the importance of proper chemical handling in Ontario workplaces.
One of the primary purposes of the OHSA is to facilitate a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) in the workplace. To this end, the OHSA lays out the duties of employers, supervisors, workers, constructors and workplace owners. Workplace parties’ compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS and control of hazards in the workplace.
Employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control machinery hazards.
Compliance help for employers
For compliance assistance, see Ministry of Labour health and safety awareness products for workplace parties, including:
- How to Prepare an Occupational Health and Safety Policy
- Health and Safety Awareness Training for Workers and Supervisors
Please contact Ministry of Labour health and safety partners for more information on identifying, preventing and controlling these hazards.
Personal protective equipment for chemicals