Workers Health & Safety Centre

Amendments to safety regulations expand protection for construction workers

Amendments to safety regulations expand protection for construction workers
Recent changes to Ontario health and safety law are designed to strengthen protection for construction workers exposed to toxic substances, noise, work at heights and other hazards.
  
These changes reflect recommendations from the construction industry’s Provincial Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee, also known as a Section 21 Committee.

Biological and chemical agents protection

Exposure to a wide range of chemical and biological agents including asbestos, silica, lead, welding fumes, dust, carbon monoxide, diesel and mould place the health of construction workers at risk. One recent study reported the risk for occupationally-related disease for construction workers over a lifetime to be two to six times greater than the risk for non-construction workers.
 
Amendments will expand the application of Regulation 833—Control of Exposure to Biological and Chemical Agents to the construction sector. This regulation establishes exposure limits for many hazardous substances and calls for employers to take all measures reasonably necessary to protect workers from exposure. 
 
Amendments were also made to the Confined Spaces Regulation—O. Reg. 632/05 to recognize the application of Regulation 833 to construction projects.

Noise protection

Noisy work environments are commonplace in the construction sector and harmful to construction workers. The same study mentioned above found more than 73 per cent of construction workers developed hearing loss over their working lives.
 
Noise protection regulations already exist for some sectors including mining, industrial and offshore drilling for oil and gas. A new Noise Regulation (Regulation 381/15) will extend noise protection requirements to all workplaces under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including the construction sector.
 
Specific requirements will include:
  • establishing an exposure limit for noise of 85 dBA, L ex8 based on an 8-hour time -weighted average exposure,
  • requiring employers to take all measures reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels exceeding 85 dBA, L ex 8,
  • clarifying an employer’s obligation to protect workers from hazardous noise exposures without requiring workers to use personal protective equipment unless certain specified circumstances apply (e.g., engineering controls are not reasonable or practical because of the duration or frequency of exposure or because of the nature of the process, operation or work), and
  • requiring employers who provide a worker with a hearing protection device to provide adequate training and instruction on that device. 

Internal combustion engine protection

The operation of internal combustion engines in a building or other enclosed structure on construction projects can result in hazardous exposures to exhaust gases, fumes and other particulates, including carbon monoxide and diesel fumes. Amendments to Section 47 of the Construction Regulation clarifies the need to control worker exposure to these harmful exhausts. Examples of changes include:
  • requirement to test for airborne concentrations of carbon monoxide in excavations, buildings or structures in which engines are operating,
  • requirement for testing to be done by a competent worker and using a written testing strategy developed in consultation with a health and safety representative or the joint health and safety committee, if any, and
  • clarification of the need for proper maintenance of an internal combustion engine. 

Additional amendments to the Construction Regulation

Fall protection measures for construction workers have been strengthened in a number of ways. For instance, fall protection provisions outlined in Section 26.1 to 26.9 had applied only when a worker “is” exposed to a fall from height. The new language applies to workers who “may be” exposed.
 
The workplace standard for deciding whether to use a guardrail system or other fall protection methods will change from what is “not reasonable” to what is “not practicable” [(s. 26.1(2)]. In short, practicable is whether or not a protective guardrail system can be put in place. Reasonable had allowed for cost to be a factor when determining the protection put in place.      
 
Amendments will establish new requirements for the operation of rotary foundation drill rigs [s. 156.1 through 156.9]. This will include the need for operators to be trained and certified.  
 
Competency requirements in the Construction Regulations will also expand from just vehicle operators to those who operate powered machines, tools or equipment [s. 96(1)(2)].  Competency is defined in the regulations as a worker who;
  • is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to perform the work,
  • is familiar with the Occupational Health & Safety Act and with the provisions of the regulations that apply to the work, and
  • has knowledge of all potential or actual danger to health or safety in the work [s. 1].  

Coming into force dates

The amendments mentioned above come into force on July 1, 2016 except for the fall protection measures and operator competency requirements which come into force on January 1, 2016.
 
Want to read the specific amendments mentioned above and the others to take effect in 2016?
 
Want additional information from the Ministry of Labour about these amendments?
 
For our part the WHSC offers a wide range of training programs and resources including MOL‑approved Working at Heights training and various industry-specific operator training programs. 
 
To learn more:
Call:     1-888-869-7950
Visit:    www.whsc.on.ca
Email:  contactus@whsc.on.ca