New training standards will make construction sites safer for those who work at heights, says Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). “Falls are the leading cause of critical injuries and fatalities of workers at construction projects in Ontario,” George Gritziotis says. “We’re doing our part to ensure construction workers receive high quality training, but the government can’t do it alone.”
“We must all work together – employers, supervisors, workers, health and safety organizations and government — to better protect workers who work at heights. We need to prevent injuries and deaths and keep workers safe on the job.”
In 2013, 21 workers died in incidents on construction projects. Almost half were as a result of falls.
The new standards were developed to ensure everyone using fall protection systems is trained in a consistent manner, Gritziotis says.
The standards include criteria for training providers and specific learning outcomes for their programs. Training that meets the standards will become mandatory on April 1, 2015 for workers who use fall protection systems on construction projects.
As of April 1, employers must ensure construction workers take the training if they use any of the following fall protection methods:
- travel restraint systems
- fall restricting systems
- fall arrest systems
- work belts
- safety belts
- safety nets
Workers will have an additional two years to successfully complete the new mandatory training if they have already received adequate fall protection training under the Regulations for Construction Projects prior to April 1.
Cordelia Clarke Julien, who heads up training and safety programs at the Ministry of Labour’s Prevention Office, says the requirements focus on the construction sector because significant hazards exist for working at heights.
“Our intent is to have the training standards for working at heights extended to other sectors as well,” says Clarke Julien.
The new training standards set out minimum criteria that working-at-heights training programs must meet to obtain CPO approval.
“The goal is to have programs that enable workers to achieve a common baseline of knowledge and skills for working safely at heights,” Clarke Julien says.
She says workers must be knowledgeable on:
- proper use of fall arrest equipment
- how to inspect equipment for damage and
- workplace rights and protections
The ministry is conducting an extensive outreach campaign to educate stakeholders and the public on the new training standards and the deadline for compliance.
This includes a six-week, radio ad campaign in February and March. The ads will be broadcast province-wide in 12 languages, including English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, Italian, Turkish and Serbian, she says.
The new standards were developed by the Ministry of Labour in consultation with stakeholders, including employers, organized labour, health and safety organizations and experts across sectors.
The new training requirements reflect a key recommendation by an Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety in 2010.
“Employers, supervisors and workers will all benefit from the implementation of working-at-heights training standards,” Clarke Julien says. “Making standardized training mandatory is an important step in creating a quality training system for high-hazard activities.”
The Ontario government has also introduced mandatory health and safety awareness training for workers and supervisors in all sectors – giving workers and employers more tools and knowledge to stay safe at work, she says.