Ontario begins material handling inspections

Mario Cywinski   

Health & Safety Operations People and Skills Production Aerospace Automotive Food & Beverage Government Manufacturing Packaging Editor Pick enforcement phase engage workplaces Government of Ontario health and safety material handling ministry inspectors Occupational Health and Safety Act Workplace inspections

The Government of Ontario inspectors recently began visiting manufacturing production workplaces in the province to make sure that businesses are compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Photo: Andrii / Adobe Stock

The main area of focus for the inspections was material handling, including forklifts, conveyor belts, and other equipment which has movement.

Plant spoke with ministry spokesperson, Jennifer Rushby at the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, to find out more details about the inspections.

Q: What sort of manufacturing plants will be inspected?
A: This campaign will focus on sectors where material handling is common, and production is taking place.

In the food and beverage sector, this may include workplaces manufacturing animal food, meat products, sugar and confectionery products, dairy products, beverages, tobacco, and cannabis products.


Inspectors may visit any kind of workplace within the sector. The workplaces inspectors visit are determined using a risk-based process that considers:

  • injury, illness and fatality data;
  • health and safety research; and
  • feedback from industry partners and inspectors.

Photo: Kadmy / Adobe Stock

Q: What will the inspectors be looking for?
A: Material handling continues to be a significant cause of workplace injuries and fatalities in these sectors, which is why it’s the focus of this year’s campaign.

The focal point for inspectors will be on workers who handle materials and the equipment used to handle these materials, and that employers are taking appropriate action to assess and address these hazards in industrial workplaces.

In addition to looking specifically at material handling hazards, inspectors will check that employers are identifying other workplace hazards, complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and have workplace safety policies in place.

Our preventative, proactive approach emphasizes safety first, preventing, or correcting workplace hazards to protect workers before injuries occur.

Q: What happens to companies that are not in compliance? Are they closed? Have a certain amount of time to comply? Will companies get a pass/fail (like they have in the food industry)?
A: Ministry inspectors conduct a review of workplace policies and procedures and will typically complete a physical inspection of the workplace. They may issue orders or requirements to enforce compliance with the OHSA and its regulations and support worker health and safety. Orders and requirements may have specific timeframes. If warranted, they may issue a stop work order until a hazard is addressed.

Workplace parties who contravene the legislation could face penalties or fines.

Q: Once a company has passed, will they be inspected again the future?
A: Yes, once an initial visit is completed, workplaces can be visited again. At times, a follow-up visit is required as part of the campaign.

In addition to this specific campaign, ministry inspectors will continue to conduct proactive and reactive visits in the sector and across Ontario’s workplaces as usual, so workplaces may also be visited as part of future campaigns or because of a call or report about the workplace.

Q: How long will the inspections be going on for?
A: The campaign will continue until March 31, 2024.

Photo: koldunova / Adobe Stock

Q: Anything to add?
A: Yes, you may also be interested to know that the ministry announced to the sector that we will be conducting a campaign; however, individual workplaces are not notified of visits in advance.

Additionally, the ministry conducts thousands of proactive visits each year, including compliance campaigns. Last year, ministry inspectors conducted over 67,800 field visits, including nearly 36,000 proactive visits, and issued over 98,900 orders.

The ministry’s proactive campaigns are conducted in two phases:

    • During the education, outreach, and awareness phase, the ministry works with health and safety associations to engage workplaces about related hazards, giving them the tools and knowledge to comply before inspections begin.
    • During the enforcement phase, ministry inspectors conduct workplace inspections to check on compliance with the OHSA.





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