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Ontario Ministry of Labour announces safety blitz on recycling and waste hazards

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that its latest health and safety blitz will focus on hazards associated with recycling and waste management in the industrial and health care sectors. This blitz is part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness and increase compliance with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

During the months of November and December, Ministry Inspectors will be visiting industrial and health care sector employers to ensure compliance with the OHSA. The purpose of the blitz is to ensure that workers are being provided with proper information, instruction and supervision.

In the industrial sector, the focus will be on employers involved in recycling commodities and other materials as well as workplaces where the handling of waste is a significant part of the operations. This includes organizations whose workers collect, transport, process, sort and dispose of waste and recyclable materials.

Employers in the industrial sector should ensure that workers who may face potential hazards are properly instructed and supervised. The Ministry has identified a list of activities that could lead to hazards, including:

  • The use of cranes and other lifting devices
  • Material handling practices that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders
  • Slipping, tripping and falling hazards like uneven surfaces, debris or spills
  • The use of mobile material handling equipment or other similar vehicles
  • Exposure to hazards that could lead to occupational illness, including noise, silica and asbestos
  • The lack of proper lockout procedures for equipment

In the health care sector, the focus will be on hospitals, long-term care facilities and laboratories where drugs used for cancer treatment and infectious against like biomedical waste are generated and handled.

With respect to the health care sector, the blitz will also focus on the proper disposal of needles, sharps and other wastes found in health care workplaces. In addition, the Ministry has identified other potential hazards, including:

  • Harmful side effects from exposure to drugs
  • Illnesses derived from infectious materials
  • Practices related to lifting and manual handling of waste bags or containers that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders

A recent decision illustrates the importance of ensuring all hazards are identified and necessary precautions are put in place in order to protect workers when transporting waste. In R. v. Reliable Wood Shavings Inc.a worker was transporting saw dust and shavings from a silo at an industrial site when he was buried by saw dust in his truck box. Tragically, the worker was killed in the incident. In this case, the hazard had been identified but no further action had been taken. The accident occurred on the premises of a customer of the employer and involved a silo owned and controlled by the customer. However, this did not relieve the employer of its responsibility to ensure a safe work environment for its employees. Click here to read our blog post on this decision.

This blog was originally posted on First Reference Talks, November 5, 2013.


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