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Blitz Results: Formwork Operations At Construction Projects

  • Issued: November 2009
  • Content last reviewed: November 2009

Note: Although workplace inspection blitzes by the ministry are announced to the appropriate sectors in advance, individual workplaces receive no prior warning.

During an inspection blitz in August 2009, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors checked specifically for hazards related to formwork operations at construction projects.

Definitions

Forms
are moulds into which concrete or other material is placed.

Formwork
is a system of forms connected together.

Falsework
(in relation to a form or structure) comprises the structural supports and bracing for all or part of the form or structure while it is being built.

Report summary

Mishaps involving formwork and falsework for the placement of concrete continue to critically injure and kill Ontario construction workers.

More than a third of orders issued during the August 2009 inspection blitz related to three priorities: safe work environment; electrical hazards, scaffold, work platform and excavation; and fall protection.

Other problems encountered by inspectors involved health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committees, and constructor and employer responsibilities.

The blitz offered an opportunity to reach large numbers of semi-skilled or untrained workers and students. At some projects, construction workplace health and safety inspectors were accompanied by ergonomists.

The Ministry of Labour will continue to focus resources on the hazards related to this blitz during routine workplace inspections. A repeat blitz will be considered for next year.

Full report

Formwork and falsework hazards at construction sites

Mishaps involving formwork and falsework for the placement of concrete continue to critically injure and kill Ontario construction workers.

From January to October 2009, inclusive, two fatalities have been attributed to high-rise forming operations.

MOL and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) data show that although lost-time injuries (LTIs) in Ontario have been steadily decreasing, LTIs in the high-rise and low-rise forming sectors occur at more than double the average rate of other construction work.

Blitz focus

The blitz in August 2009 focused on:

    High-rise and low-rise forming sector hazards associated with the design, erection and dismantling of formwork and falsework used in the placement of concrete Work on ladders, scaffolds and near excavations and overhead power lines associated with formwork Ensuring worker protection from fall hazards, including the leading edge of the formwork floor

The use of semi-skilled or untrained workers and students is prevalent in formwork operations as these labourers usually assist in material handling activities. The blitz offered an opportunity to reach these under-serviced vulnerable workers.

At some projects, construction workplace health and safety inspectors were accompanied by ergonomists who focused on:

Low-rise forming

  • Access to the excavated site
  • Minimizing the distance between where forms are stored and and where they are assembled
  • Erection of work platforms
  • Stripping of forms
  • Moving interior wall forms to exterior, and
  • Carrying forms to next lot

High-rise forming

  • Tying of rebar in columns
  • Methods used for tying wall rods; and
  • Hammering

Inspectors visited projects within all construction sectors, including:

  • Industrial commercial and institutional
  • Residential (high- and low-rise)
  • Road building and sewer/watermains, and
  • Bridge rehabilitation

Inspection activity

During August 2009, MOL occupational health and safety inspectors throughout Ontario made 247 workplace visits and issued 721 orders, including 43 stop-work orders.

Under the Provincial Offences Act, there were eight Part I summons and five Part I tickets issued at the projects.

Order analysis

Orders were issued for fall protection hazards and for contraventions regarding electrical hazards and material handling and storage.

Thirty-seven per cent of orders issued during the blitz related to the blitz’s three priorities:

  • Safe work environment regarding formwork including design, erection and dismantling of formwork and material storage and handling — 14 per cent
  • Electrical hazards, scaffold, work platform and excavation — 14 per cent and
  • Fall protection by a guardrail system or other means — 9 per cent.

Eight per cent of Occupational Health and Safety Act orders related to health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committees (sections 8 and 9 of the act).

Fifteen per cent of orders related to constructor and employer responsibilities (sections 23 and 25 of the act).

Workplace inspection blitzes

Inspection blitzes by the ministry are announced in advance and results are posted on the ministry’s website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its safety regulations.

Inspection blitzes are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. In selecting construction projects for proactive inspections, the ministry uses predictive indicators such as inherent hazards and poor records of compliance with safety regulations.

Inspectors’ findings determine their subsequent level of engagement and frequency of inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors often refer employers to Health and Safety Associations for compliance assistance and training.

Next steps

The Ministry of Labour will continue to focus resources on the hazards related to this blitz during routine workplace inspections. A repeat blitz will be considered for next year.

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control hazards associated with formwork. For more information on identifying and preventing these hazards, please contact the Construction Health and Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO).