Businesses in Ontario should prepare for a workplace safety blitz. Between October 1 and December 27, 2019, inspectors from the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be performing safety inspections across the province, focusing on the health care, mining, and construction sectors.
Inspectors will be focusing on musculoskeletal injury and respiratory illnesses. Musculoskeletal injuries, such as tendonitis, back pain, and carpal tunnel, are among the most frequently occurring workplace injuries on all worksites in Ontario. They are common injuries for workers who engage in heavy physical labour, including repetitive actions and heavy lifting in awkward positions, and can damage joints, soft tissue, ligaments, and bones. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), they also account for more than one-third of all lost-time injury claims in the province. In 2017, that meant approximately 19,000 claims that cost WSIB $72 million and resulted in a cumulative 462,000 days of lost work time. Inspectors will be looking to ensure that workers have been trained to lift and move heavy objects safely, that heavy items are stored in places that are easily accessible, that workers get frequent breaks from repetitive actions, and that work on ladders is being performed safely.
The largest portion of costs are attributed to long-latency diseases that manifest themselves years after exposure to toxic agents. These include asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma resulting from inhaling dust, gases, and vapors at the worksite. Inspectors will be focusing on ensuring that all workers are trained for working with dangerous substances, have adequate supervision, work in areas with adequate ventilation, and work within the legal limits of exposure to hazardous agents. Another important element of inspections will focus on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Inspectors will be focusing on ensuring that workers have access to adequate and well-maintained PPE whenever the situation demands it and that workers are adequately trained on how to use it properly.
The increased inspections are part of the provincial government’s Safe at Work Ontario program dedicated to improving worker health and safety and complying with the regulations provided by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Under these regulations, businesses found to be in violation are issued compliance orders to address the issue. Inspectors will issue a stop work order if there is the risk of immediate injury. Businesses that do not follow the orders and instructions provided by inspectors can face significant fines.
Technology is changing the face of health and safety for today’s businesses. With so many cutting-edge applications and tools available for protecting worker safety, there is very little excuse for any organization to lag in creating a rigorous culture of safety in which everyone, from leadership to the workers, is deeply invested. Dedicated health and safety management systems built on connectivity, wearables, and analytics provide insight into worker safety that deepens each day. While the Ministry of Labour will be looking for flagrant violations and hazards, industry leaders already know that the key to strong safety culture is using technology and data to make safety a priority and prevent accidents and hazards before they occur. Technology therefore plays a key role in moving an organization from reactive to predictive. This will keep workers safe, save money, prevent lost time, and allow organizations to focus on products, services, and innovation.