How to Ensure Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Compliance on Your Condominium Improvement Project

Hiring a contractor to complete a condo improvement process is not as easy as it may seem.

Other than finding someone who is qualified and experienced, it’s important to find a contractor that’s compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. Here’s what you need to know before embarking on your next condominium improvement project.

How to Choose a Properly OHS Trained and Equipped Contractor

There are plenty of contractors available to complete your condominium project work. But how do you know if they are properly trained in OHS?

Before signing a contract, ensure that your potential contractor has a formal health and safety program in place (and can provide you with a copy of their Health and Safety Policy dated within the current year). You may also request a copy of the Health and Safety Manual to keep on file). Plus, investigate the contractor’s past safety record including any MOL Orders and request statistics of safety incidents, if necessary. You must obtain a copy of the Contractor’s WSIB Clearance Certificate and Liability Insurance with you listed as a Certificate Holder as a minimum.

After a contractor is chosen, the condo property manager must complete a job hazard assessment in consultation with the Contractor and Contractor’s site foreman prior to starting the works. Together, they should agree on an effective solution regarding the safety measures needed to reduce workers’ risk. The condo property manager must also ensure an area is available for the contractor to set up the required Occupational Health and Safety and WSIB posting requirements. Ensure items such as a First Aid Kit, Green Book and Eye Wash Kit are on site. These are items that should be provided by the contractor.

Maintain open, regular communication with the contracted company and set up regular health and safety meetings and checks throughout your condo improvement project. Document in a log your findings and discussions with the contractor.

The Purpose of Ministry of Labour Inspections during Your Condo Construction Project

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) conducts inspections of condo construction or renovation projects to ensure worker health and safety laws are being followed.

While identifying potential safety hazards and inspecting personal protective equipment, training and certifications, the MOL inspector may comment on particular issues found.

In some circumstances, a “forthwith order” may be issued that requires a correction before the MOL inspector leaves the site or a “compliance order” that has a deadline to resolve the matter.

Depending on the severity of the identified safety concerns, a “stop work” order may even be issued, which shuts down a job site until a health and safety hazard is properly addressed.

The MOL Inspector may also fine workers, supervisors, the Contractor and even the Condo Corporation and Property Manager for violations of the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, a lack of PPE worn or available, pre-checks on equipment used that are required in the CSA Standards applicable to that equipment and lack of training provided on a variety of different topics.

Ensure Your Contractor is Following Health and Safety Procedures

In the end, the primary responsibility in Ontario falls on the constructor to ensure the overall safety of the project and the workers involved. When an owner hires only one employer (contractor) to do all the work on a project, then that contractor is undertaking the work and is the constructor. This Contractor is often referred to as the General Contractor.

However, the condo board (acting as an “Owner”) and the property manager (acting as the “project manager”) must do their due diligence to ensure the contractors hired for construction work comply with health and safety requirements.

The condo Board must ensure the contractor’s workers are competent and properly trained, all necessary health and safety policies are in place and are being followed, workers are educated with safe methods and equipped with proper equipment and precautions are taken to protect workers.

Before work begins, the property manager must examine the type of risks that will be associated with the upcoming construction work. He/she is responsible for preparing a hazard assessment and a list of designated substances on site and disclosing that list on project tenders and to the contractor. The property manager should also conduct regular checks to confirm the contractors compliance.

Even though a contractor in Ontario is engaged for its expertise, you cannot contract out of your health and safety obligations. This was demonstrated in the case of Regina v. Wyssen c.o.b. Jake Wyssen Enterprises (1992) after an experienced window cleaning company was retained. A window cleaner was fatally injured and Wyseen was found guilty after contravening the Ontario OH&S Act.

If the owner hires multiple contractors and sub-contractors for different components of the work to be performed on the project they will be deemed as the Constructor.

It’s important to realize that occupational health and safety risk management for contractors is much more than signing a contract. All parties involved – contractors, subcontractors, property managers and condo boards – need to work together to ensure there is OHS compliance on any condo improvement project. If the condo corporation or its agents and delegates hire more than one contractor for a project then they will be classified as the Constructor and all duties and responsibilities will be applicable.