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How often have you undertaken a home renovation project yourself? You might have hired out the more skilled aspects – maybe an electrician, a plumber, or a drywall taper (we all know “a guy”, don’t we?). You’re perfectly capable of overseeing the project generally; there’s no need to hire a general contractor just to finish a basement or build a deck, right? Well, that may be true, but you should understand that without one, you might be the project’s “constructor” under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“the Act”), which has serious consequences.

The constructor bears overall responsibility for the health and safety of all workers on the construction site. For example, the constructor must:

  • Ensure that every employer and every worker performing work on the project complies with the Act and its regulations
  • Ensure that written emergency procedures are established and posted
  • Appoint a supervisor where five or more workers will be on site at the same time
  • Notify the Ministry of any accident or occurrence, as required by the Act
  • Ensure that the health and safety of workers on the project is protected
If a constructor fails to meet any obligation under the Act, Ministry inspectors can issue stop-work orders, impose set fines up to $500 or, if a worker suffers a serious injury, lay charges under the Act. So if your drywall taper falls off the ladder and suffers a critical injury, you could face prosecution with a potential fine of up to $25,000 (for an individual; a corporation may be fined up to $500,000).
Of course, lots of home renovations go smoothly with no more than a few hammered thumbs and the resulting colourful language. However, the risk is substantial – if one of your “guys” is seriously hurt, you may wish that the responsibility could be laid somewhere other than on your own shoulders.

For more information, you can review the Ministry’s guidelines, at
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/gl_cnstr.pdf

If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please contact Beth Traynor at [email protected] or call 519-672-2121.

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