Health And Safety—The goal should always be “zero”

Protecting the health and safety of your employees and contractors is one of the basic responsibilities of every business owner. Not only do you have an ethical responsibility to keep your staff safe and healthy, it’s also the law.

If you own a business—with staff at construction jobs where there is a higher risk or even employees at an office working at a computer—there are some hard facts you need to know. On average, 70 young workers under the age of 25 were injured on the job per day in Ontario. That’s three every hour! In 2014, 14 Ontario families lost a loved one due to falls from heights at work, and six workers also died in the province at construction projects due to being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment. While the construction industry has the highest rate of injuries and fatalities, Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common workplace injuries resulting in over 40 percent of all Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) claims. Canada has strict laws governing worker safety. As part of your health and safety plan, you should ensure:

  • Workers on construction projects complete approved training for working at heights.
  • Every worker and supervisor undertakes health and safety training under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), as part of a new regulation that came into force July 1, 2014.
  • In workplaces in which more than five workers are regularly employed, you need to prepare a written occupational health and safety policy and a program to implement it.
  • Regardless of how many workers you employ, you need to have policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment and programs to implement these policies.
  • It is the responsibility of employers, owners, constructors, suppliers of equipment, and supervisors to ensure that all workplace parties comply with the provisions of the OHSA and the regulations in order to protect workers from hazards in the workplace including the protection of workers from infectious diseases due to inadequate sanitation on construction projects.
  • Manual materials handling can expose workers to hazards resulting in musculoskeletal disorders, which may be caused or aggravated by various hazards or risk factors such as force, fixed or awkward postures, and repetition. Employers are required to protect workers by putting in place controls to prevent hazards. Preventing MSDs needs to be a key part of every workplace health and safety program.
  • Train all workers on preventing slips, trips and falls. Make sure workers receive information, instruction and supervision to prevent injuries and deaths from slips, trips and falls, including the right to refuse unsafe work.

Once you’ve implemented all of what you are required to by law, here are some tips to ensure your workspace is healthier, safer and happier:

  • Ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition.
  • When working on a scaffold at heights over 2.4 metres, workers are to be protected by guardrails or have adequate fall protection in place.
  • When working at heights over 3 metres, or when exposed to fall hazards, workers must have adequate fall protection in place.
  • Ensure work areas and pedestrian routes are clear of debris and tripping hazards at all times.
  • Use reflective markings to draw attention to a change of level on the work floor.
  • Ensure ladders are the right class and length for the task. Worker’s centre of gravity must stay between the side rails. Use a ladder with non-slip feet, placing it on a firm and level surface. Stepladder legs are to be fully extended, with the centre bar in the locked position.
  • Slippery surfaces—choose slip-resistant floor surfaces during any renovation/new construction. Clean spills immediately using a suitable cleaning agent. Use appropriate barriers to warn people that the floor is wet and arrange alternative paths.
  • Floor openings need to be protected by a guardrail or covering that completely covers the opening and meets all the requirements.
  • Properly assess and address hazards that could cause workers to slip, trip or fall. Keep floors and other work surfaces free of hazards and accumulations of refuse, snow or ice.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), including high visibility clothing, is worn by workers, as required.
  • When there is a potential for exposure to heat stress, engineering and administrative control measures and protective clothing must be taken to prevent heat exposure in the workplace. A hot weather plan should be in place between May 1st and September 30th.

There are many resources available to help you provide your employees with the most comfortable and safest workplace possible. Make sure you know your responsibilities.

For more information on the laws in Ontario and Canada check out Health and Safety OntarioMinistry of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

Caerus HR Consulting can work with you to identify the training you and your employees require, that you have policies and procedures in place that are appropriate for your company. Contact us to get started.

Caerus HR Consulting provides HR consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. For more information on creating an HR strategy through organizational culture and leadership, contact Ramona Packham, Owner & HR Business Partner, at 613-220-9005 or at for more information. People Business for Business People.

Caerus HR Consulting Inc.

Ramona Packham CHRL, MBA