(Canadian OH&S News) — Less than a month after two workers were fatally injured at separate gravel crushing sites in Alberta, the provincial Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour has begun conducting focused inspections of these worksites.
Brookes Merritt, public affairs officer with the labour ministry, said that the inspections began in early August and are expected to wrap up in late September. The inspections build on last year’s campaign, when oh&s officers visited 64 sand and gravel crushing worksites in eight weeks. The ministry issued a total of 240 orders to employers during that blitz, including 37 related to inadequate equipment guarding and 23 stop-work/stop-use orders. Of the 64 sites inspected, only seven did not require any orders to be issued, the ministry noted in its inspection report.
Merritt said that the 2014 inspections would be a mix of both previously inspected and newly inspected worksites. “It could involve visits to employers who were subject to the inspection campaign last year, and it will also involve new operations, not new per se, but operations that were not inspected in the previous year,” Merritt said, adding that there are about 250 employers working in the industry in Alberta.
Inspection dates moved up following fatalities
He noted that the second series of inspections were planned in advance, but the inspection dates were moved up a bit in recognition of the two fatalities in July. “That demonstrates to us the value of getting these inspections underway, so we moved it up a couple of weeks,” Merritt said.
On July 19, 15-year-old construction worker Christopher Lawrence, employed by Arjon Construction Ltd., was killed after he became entangled in a conveyor at a gravel crushing site near Wintering Heights, between the towns of Drumheller and Bassano (COHSN, July 28). Nine days later, a 51-year-old worker was performing maintenance on a gravel crusher when he was pulled into a conveyor. The employee of Contract Crushing Ltd. was fatally injured about 1.5 kilometres north of Athabasca.
A release from the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour said that this year, officers can issue tickets to employers and workers for specific violations — an enforcement tool that was not available last year. OHS tickets charge immediate, on-the-spot fines of up to $500 that officers can issue to workers and employers for violations such as failing to ensure a worker wears required personal protective equipment (PPE).
Officers will be looking for:
* Worksites without proper safeguards, such as equipment guarding on gravel conveyors;
* Workers not wearing PPE;
* Employers who haven’t addressed worksite hazards;
* Workers who do not hold all the necessary certifications; and
* Workers not properly operating equipment.
“These inspections will shine a light on sand and gravel operators,” labour minister Kyle Fawcett said in the release. “I’m hopeful we’ll see improvement over last year’s performance, but recent tragedies certainly raise the question [of] whether that’s the case.
“OHS officers will be educating operators and enforcing the law where required,” Fawcett said. “Our job is to make sure worksites are putting people first by protecting workers.”