Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has issued 470 workplace safety orders on Ottawa’s LRT project between January 2013 and April this year, citing problems with bad lighting, dust and a host of other problems.
The ministry provided data on the orders following a Metro access to information request. The numbers also showed that, over the same period of time, there were 56 worker complaints called into the ministry about the project.
The department could provide no comparative data to other projects. In 2012, the last year where information was available there were 60,000 orders issued in the construction industry across Ontario.
Ottawa and District Labour Council president Sean McKenny said that number of incidents is stunning to him. He said a normal construction project following all the rules would not have any orders.
“Most projects, the ministry doesn’t issue any orders, because there is compliance with the act and the regulations,” he said. “Even for a project of this size, it’s not a little high, it’s way, way high.”
Janet Deline, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, said the volume of orders isn’t necessarily indicative of a problem.
“Orders are issued for both minor and major contraventions; therefore, the number itself may not be particularly reflective of conditions on the project at any given time or location.”
Some of the orders inspectors have issued have cropped up several times, including concerns about debris in the tunnel and the air quality.
“Employer to ensure workers are protected from dust emanating from tunnel,” reads one order. “At time of inspection a majority of workers exiting and entering tunnel were not using any protective equipment to prevent the inhalation of dust.”
Conrad McCallum, a spokesperson for the contractor, said they’re diligent about dealing with these safety issues.
“We take every report of unsafe conditions or work practices seriously. We respond with timely corrective action and we identify opportunities to improve safety education, communication, and training,” he said via email.
Of the 470 orders only about 30 had not been complied with by the end of April, which was the cutoff for the data.
The city said they expected the contractor to maintain a safe working environment.
"The city is committed to safety and has been clear with all parties involved of the importance of having the safest work environment possible," said Steve Cripps, director, O-Train construction. "Ottawa Light Rail Transit Constructors has confirmed to the City that all orders from the MOL are actioned expeditiously.”
This article originally appeared in Metro News.