On May 11, 2017, the Government of Ontario released its Construction Health and Safety Action Plan (CHSAP or Action Plan). The Action Plan, which includes 16 specific recommendations, was created with input from construction employers, workers and other industry stakeholders. The Province’s goal in adopting the Action Plan is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities for workers on construction sites across the province.
In March 2015, the Minister of Labour established an advisory group to assist the government in the development and implementation of a Construction Health and Safety Action Plan. The advisory group, which included an equal number of labour and employer representatives, worked with Parliamentary Assistant Mike Colle and the province’s Chief Prevention Officer in developing the Action Plan. The Introduction to the CHSAP explains why the government felt that an Action Plan was necessary:
Construction is one of the highest-hazard industries in Ontario. It had the highest average number of occupational traumatic fatalities between 2010 and 2015. During this period, the construction sector accounted for 30% of all traumatic fatalities with an average of 20 traumatic fatalities per year, although construction comprises only 7% [6.7%] of total employment in Ontario.
The 16 recommendations made in the CHSAP fall under two overarching strategic goals, each of which has three objectives. The goals and objectives are:
Goal #1 – A 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.
Goal #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.
The 16 recommendations included in the CHSAP form the basis of the Action Plan and will guide future work by the health and safety system in Ontario to address the health and safety challenges in the construction sector in the province. The Action Plan is intended to be a “work in progress”, which will be updated regularly to seek continuous improvement and to respond to emerging priorities.
The province has already made progress on a number of initiatives in the Construction Health and Safety Action Plan, including:
- Developing a web tool and mobile app to help employers and workers understand their health and safety obligations and rights for specific construction projects;
- Building an online portal that allows building inspectors to report unsafe work practices to the government; and
- Increasing awareness about working-at-heights training requirements.
More information on the Action Plan, and background information regarding the process by which it was developed, can be found on the Ministry of Labour’s website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/construction-health-and-safety-action-plan
In our view
The Action Plan is an important initiative which construction sector employers and employees must take note of. Not only will the Action Plan inform health and safety in Ontario’s construction industry for years to come, it will have an immediate impact. Health and safety violations are more likely to come to the attention of Ministry of Labour Inspectors through the new online reporting portal for building inspectors, which may lead to an increase in compliance orders and charges for health and safety violations. Furthermore, employers and employees alike now have additional resources and tools available to assist them in ensuring that they are in compliance with their health and safety obligations. We will monitor progress with respect to the implementation of the Action Plan and keep readers apprised of significant developments as they arise.