OHS Canada Magazine

A Word about Police Officers and Hard Hats on Construction Sites

July 29, 2015
By Alec Caldwell

The Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario has very strict laws about construction hats on construction sites. Laws the cops flout at will, while they work on the side for extra bucks.

Have you seen police officers in the middle of construction sites, controlling traffic, yakking to construction workers, maybe leaning on lampposts or drinking coffee? (It doesn’t happen in every Canadian city.)

I have seen this many times, and I’ve also been asked why these officers are not wearing safety hard hats, like all other workers who work around them under the same safety regulations.

It seems these police officers are moonlighting on their days off and are hired and paid by private companies for their services. This issue has been going on for years, and it has gathered many critics along the way. None more so than Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee, who told CBC News that he wants to eliminate what he calls “rent-a-cops,” those officers hired for events that aren’t required by law to have a police presence.

Police are public servants who wear public uniforms. So why are they allowed to wear their uniforms on their days off on private side jobs? They’re even allowed to carry guns.

For example, you won’t see Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers driving Greyhound buses wearing TTC uniforms. You won’t see firefighters wearing their uniforms while they work on secondary jobs on their days off. So why is this allowed with the police?

The uniform issue is not my main concern, though. My concern is about police officers not wearing hard hats at these construction projects, which clearly contravenes, in Ontario, the Occupational Health & Safety Act. When I visit any kind of job site, I’m required to wear a hard hat. Cops aren’t, apparently.

If a falling object hits my head, the head of a construction worker or the head of a police officer, would it not cause the same amount of damage to us all? Is the employer not liable, no matter what uniform the injured wear?

So the question is: why are police officers allowed to flaunt safety laws? The OHSA says under regulation O. Reg. 213/91, s. 22 (1): “A worker shall (a) work in compliance with the provisions of this Act and the regulations; (b) use or wear the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn.”

It seems to be a two-tier safety system in Ontario. Should police be allowed to work on job sites without protection, or even at all? Let the Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services (CARAHS) know what you think about the matter.

By providing education and training, CARAHS reduces your risk of fines, jobsite closures and prosecution under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. We are independent of unions and government.

Alec Caldwell is the founder of the Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services, a nonprofit organization for self-employed renovators and home services.

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