Ministry of Labour inspectors will focus on personal protective equipment at Ontario workplaces in the industrial and health care sectors as part of the ministry's October enforcement blitz.
According to a news release by the ministry, inspectors will focus on hazards involving the choice, use and maintenance of PPE. "Workers using inappropriate or poorly maintained equipment are at risk of injury and illness," the ministry said.
Personal protective equipment acts as a barrier to guard workers against hazards such as blows to the body, loud noise, heat, chemicals and infection. The equipment includes protective clothing, helmets, shoes, goggles, respirators and other safety gear worn by workers.
Thousands of workers have lost time at work due to incidents that could have been prevented if they wore proper personal protective equipment, according to the labour ministry.
In 2010, 1,075 workers suffered injuries that, in some cases, caused temporary or permanent vision loss due to impacts with objects. In that same year, 1,515 workers suffered head injuries due to impacts with objects and 1,120 workers suffered foot injuries caused by crushing, puncturing or dousing with hazardous substances. In many cases, the injured workers were wearing improper eye, head or foot protection or no protection at all, the ministry said.
Workers need to wear personal protective equipment when they are at risk of:
- eye injury due to possible flying particles, dust, vapours, chemicals or intense light sources;
- head injury due to possible falling or flying objects, fixed object blows or exposed energized electrical conductors; or,
- foot injury due to possible falling or rolling objects, sharp objects or exposed energized electrical conductors.
Ministry of Labour inspectors will pay particular attention to workplaces in the following sectors:
- Wood & metal fabrication
- Vehicle sales and service
- Food & beverage
- Long term care homes
- Homes for residential care (retirement homes)
In industrial workplaces, inspectors will focus on head, eye and foot protection. They may also address other types of personal protective equipment, including fall, respiratory, skin and hearing protection.
In health care workplaces, inspectors will focus on head, eye, face, respiratory, hearing, hand and foot protective equipment for non-clinical staff in dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, central sterile supply and laundry departments.
Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, for any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations, the labour ministry said.
During inspection, ministry inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:
Inspectors will check that employers and supervisors’ selection of personal protective equipment is appropriate for the hazard. They will also check that the equipment is providing an appropriate level of protection for the worker. For example, inspectors may ask supervisors why a particular type of equipment is being used as opposed to other types.
Inspectors will check that employers and supervisors are instructing workers on the proper use of required personal protective equipment. They will also check that workers are using the required personal protective equipment.
Inspectors will check that employers and supervisors are properly maintaining the required personal protective equipment. They will also check on the state of repair.