(Canadian OH&S News) — The Ministry of Labour (MOL) for Ontario has announced a new training standard for the province’s construction sector, aimed at preventing injuries and fatalities associated with those who work at heights.
The Working at Heights Training Program Standard, which goes into effect on April 1, will be mandatory for all provincial worksites that fall under the Regulations for Construction Projects. Part of the government’s four-part economic plan, the new standard is designed to ensure that construction employees are sufficiently familiar with hazard identification, ladder safety, the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the rights and responsibilities regarding working at heights.
“Falls are the number one cause of critical injuries and fatalities of workers at construction projects in Ontario,” Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in a Dec. 9 press release. “We need to fix that, and the new mandatory working-at-heights standards are one step we’re taking to ensure workers are safe on the job.”
Ministry spokesperson William Lin told COHSN that the standard would actually be a two-part requirement: one part to ensure that workers are trained properly, the other for “providers,” setting out requirements for companies who train employees.
“The Training Program Standard is a standard that sets up the minimum criteria that must be achieved by working-at-heights training programs, to attain Chief Prevention Officer approval,” said Lin. “The goal in standardizing and approving training is to have programs available for workers to achieve a common baseline of basic knowledge and skills for working safely at heights.”
Lin added that there would be two modules to the standard. One will consist of theory, based on knowledge and awareness, and the other will be a practical module consisting of hands-on demonstrations of procedures and PPE, including instruction on how to use and take care of fall protection gear.
The standard applies immediately to all Ontario construction workers who have not already been trained under the Regulations for Construction Projects. Those who already have this training have until April 1, 2017 to qualify for the new requirements.
Although the new standard will be mandatory only for the construction industry, the MOL is considering expanding it to other sectors too. “Right now, we’re focusing on construction because, as you know, the construction sector has a large and disproportionately high number of fatalities involving falls,” said Lin.
The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) — a Mississauga-based group that works with the Ontario construction industry, among other sectors, to implement health and safety solutions — supports the initiative.
“These new standards will assist Ontario construction workers in their jobs and ensure more of them are able to come home safely at night to their friends and family,” said IHSA president and CEO Al Beattie. “It will also provide the highest level of training Ontario can supply. Training agencies will have to be prepared to have their programs evaluated by the province for quality and consistency. IHSA is ready for that challenge.”
The organization announced in a Dec. 10 communiqué that it would be releasing information about how its own Working at Heights — Fundamentals of Fall Prevention training would be adapted to meet the new standard. One out of four lost-time injuries that IHSA member firms reported in 2013 had resulted from falls, the association said, while 10 construction workers died from falls in Ontario during that same year.
“The new training requirements will better protect construction workers and keep them safe,” said Lin. “We believe that employers, supervisors, workers, all workplace parties will all benefit from the implementation of these training standards, because they set us a baseline for high-quality, consistent training.”