Working at Heights training: Why the MoL has introduced the new requirements

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By Ty Arslan

Special to Ottawa Construction News

            The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MoL) has put into effect a new Working at Heights training program effective April 1, essential for construction workers on projects using different fall protection methods.

Why working at heights?

According to the MOL’s Provincial Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee (PLMHSC) report, in 2014, there were 20 construction industry deaths. Overall, 344 construction workers died from 1998 through 2014.

This astonishing number of lost lives, in Ontario alone, needs to be reduced as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The fatality rate shows the importance of implementing the working at heights training and making sure that all individuals who are working with fall protection methods have the knowledge and equipment available to them when needed. By implementing Working at Heights training, many lives can be saved, and workers in the Ontario construction industry will have the means necessary to stay safe and go home at the end of the day.

“Working at heights is one of the most dangerous types of work at construction projects. By making these standards mandatory, we are ensuring those workers receive consistent, high-quality training,” said George Gritziotis, Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer. Our shared goal is to improve health and safety and prevent injuries and deaths of construction workers.”

Why is it necessary?

Working at heights training is necessary for many reasons:

  • To keep workers safe from falls.
  • To keep workers safe from falling objects or equipment.
  • To educate the workers of the different safety procedures and equipment being used.
  • For workers to feel more comfortable and confident working in situations where working at heights training is.
  • To have a consistent, high quality training program for workers

Who will need it?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, working at heights training is required for all workers on construction projects that use:

  • A travel restraint system
  • A fall restriction system
  • A fall arrest system
  • A safety net
  • Work belts or safety belt

What’s the difference?

Workers are already supposed to have the proper training for using fall protection systems under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The difference now is that the new working at heights training is creating a consistent, high quality standard for individuals using fall protection systems in the workplace. Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn says: “Anybody that works in that environment, we know it’s a high hazard activity, we need new training that allows us to set a baseline where everybody is on the same standard.”

Will the government be increasing inspections?

            The Ministry of Labour reported in February that in a safety blitz in July and August 2014, ministry inspectors conducted 2,038 visits to 1,670 workplaces and issued 6,458 orders under the OHSA, including 584 stop work orders.

As of January 13, 2015, about 95 percent of the orders were complied with.

The top three most commonly issued orders were for violations involving:

  • Failure to use personal protective equipment
  • Failure to erect guardrails
  • Failure to use other forms of fall protection when guardrails were not reasonably possible.

            Ty Arslan is president of Auspice Safety Inc.  He can be reached through www.auspicesafety.com.

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