In a bid to lower the number of workplace injuries and the incidences of occupational illness, the province announced a blitz to focus on hazardous chemicals in workplaces at Algonquin College yesterday.
Beginning in September, Ministry of Labour occupational health and safety inspectors will focus on hazards involving disinfecting chemicals like chlorine, dry cleaning solvents, metal-working fluids and detergents in all workplaces, including swimming pools and spas, dry cleaning operations, metal fabrication shops and health-care facilities.
The initiative is a part of the province’s Safe at Work Ontario program announced in 2008. Keeping workers safe means increased productivity for Ontario’s economy and less strain on the province’s health-care system.
“Hazardous chemicals are a fact of life in many workplaces, but correctly handled, they should not cause harm,” said Ontario Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca. “We are determined to eliminate all workplace injuries, including injuries and illnesses related to chemical exposure.”
In the last 10 years, more than 23,000 workers suffered lost-time injuries related to chemical hazards, said Fonseca.
“This has hurt our productivity as a province,” he said. “Our goal is to keep workers healthy and safe.”
“Everyday, 715 workers in Ontario are injured,” said Ottawa West Nepean MPP Jim Watson.
“What we can do is reduce the numbers — it’s good for the employees, it’s good for the employers and it’s good for the families of employees.”
Although Watson said the number of workplace injuries is going down, “I think we have to be more aggressive,” he said. “We still have work to do.”
But the campaign is about prevention and being proactive, he said.
Fonseca agreed. “Safe at Work works with employers so that everyone knows when the blitz is coming up,” he said.
“It’s a proactive approach to find areas that we need to improve on.”