Safety professionals begin 2016 thinking about how to have a safer year and while specific objectives vary from company to company, in the end we simply want to ensure workers are safe on the job and return home at the end of each working day.
Consideration is put into what resources, equipment and training employees need to achieve our safety goals, and for Acapulco Pools, the new Working at Heights (WAH) training is at the top of the list. Before construction season hits this spring, our construction sector crew will have been trained in the new mandatory program, contributing to the industry’s shared goal to improve the health and safety of workers.
On December 24, 2009, six workers were unknowingly working on a faulty swing stage on the 13th floor of a Toronto apartment building. When the swing stage gave out and split, four of the workers fell to their death, the fifth survived the fall but with devastating injuries, and the sixth, the only worker wearing fall protection remained relatively unharmed. In addition to years of statistics, it was this devastating accident that propelled the changes we see now in the new mandatory Working at Heights training legislation.
As of April 1st, 2015, employers in Ontario must ensure that workers on construction projects who use fall protection equipment must complete a Working at Heights training by an approved vendor that meets training standards established by the Chief Prevention Officer. This is in an effort to provide consistent, high-quality training to all workers in the industry. Fortunately, workers who have previously been trained in Fall Protection under the previous requirements of subsection 26.2(1), of the construction project regulations, receive a 2-year grace period to complete WAH training.
The original Fall Protection training concentrated predominantly on what to do in the instance a worker does fall, while Working at Heights is far more comprehensive and focuses on fall prevention. It mirrors the standard hierarchy of controls for removing and reducing hazards in the workplace.
Meaning, it’s ideal to control the hazard at the source, and if not, control it at the worker. If there is no way to complete work from ground level, guardrails, safety fences, barricades, travel restraints and fall restricting devices are a great first line of defense. Personal fall arrest equipment and safety nets should only be used as a last resort or in addition to equipment that serves to prevent a fall from occurring.
Many of us are guilty of saying this, admittedly myself included, but after participating in the new Working at Heights training it changes your perspective. The legislation outlines that the training must address ramps, stairs, and landings; scaffolds, work platforms and ladders; related PPE, devices and equipment. Do your workers use ladders or work platforms on site? As far as the new training is considered, this would be viewed as working at heights. Other major conditions where fall protection equipment is required is when work is being completed:
•At a height of more than 3m (10’),
•At more than 2m (4’) if over a path used by a wheelbarrow or equipment,
•Over operating machinery,
•Over water or liquid such as a tank,
•Over a hazardous substance,
•Over a work surface opening.
While the above list is not exhaustive, it gives an indication for some common working at heights requirements. It is important to review O. Reg. 213/91 for construction projects, or otherwise for your work sector, to ensure all requirements are met based on your industry and scope of work.
The reality is that falls remain a major cause of injury and death in the construction industry and many of them happen at heights below 2 metres, or are the result of absent fall protection equipment. Acknowledging that your workers do work at heights can be the first step in making your workplace safer. Other tips to consider are to:
•Complete a hazard assessment for working at heights and put controls in place to minimize risk
•Ensure supervisors and workers know their rights and responsibilities regarding working at heights
•Provide workers with proper fall protection equipment that is in good condition
•Ensure that a rescue plan is developed and followed when fall arrest devices are being used
•Have a policy and procedure for equipment inspections and for defective equipment
•Enroll workers in an approved WAH course and check for understanding regularly
Visit the MOL website for more information and a list of approved training providers.
Nicole Oosterveld Health & Safety Manager As the Health and Safety Manager at Acapulco Pools, Nicole oversees the day-to-day safety on job sites and in the office, and implements new safety policies, procedures and training. With bachelor’s degrees in Psychology, Sociology and Education it was an effortless transition into health and safety, where Nicole is working towards achieving the company’s Certificate of Recognition. MORE >>
Nicole Oosterveld Health & Safety Manager
As the Health and Safety Manager at Acapulco Pools, Nicole oversees the day-to-day safety on job sites and in the office, and implements new safety policies, procedures and training. With bachelor’s degrees in Psychology, Sociology and Education it was an effortless transition into health and safety, where Nicole is working towards achieving the company’s Certificate of Recognition.