All employees, including office staff, will require mandatory safety training
Ottawa Construction News staff writer
New mandatory safety regulations will create compliance and training challenges for contractors, with many details still uncertain even though the new rules are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, says Aris Finnson, co-chair of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) health and safety committee.
The Safe at Work Ontario (SAWO) strategy for enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act includes mandatory training for all employees – including office as well as field staff – and potentially cumbersome new qualifications for anyone training for working at heights and those who wish to train this program, she said.
The new regulations, which mandate basic occupational health and safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors, stems from recommendations made in the Expert Advisory Panel’s report on Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario (led by Tony Dean), released in December 2010.
Finnson says the Ministry of Labour will require all businesses to have a plan in place for the mandatory training by July 1.
This is a simple program, she saying, that can be conducted with Ministry of Labour booklets, online training, or if the employer already has an orientation component in place, existing training programs might meet the requirements.
“The goal is for everyone to know about their rights and responsibilities,” she said. “The program explains how workers should report safety issues, what they should do if they see hazards, and what they should expect from their supervisors.”
The online option requires 45 to 60 minutes to complete, and needs to be conducted in a single sitting. Employees who complete receive a “proof of completion” certificate, which needs to be saved/printed right away. Fortunately, the certificate is valid for the rest of the employee’s career, making this a one-time obligation.
Larger companies probably already have safety training policies and systems in place, and the existing in-house programs may be sufficient, but the program and attendance need to be documented properly to qualify for MoL recognition.
The story may be different for smaller contractors and sub-trades, who might not be familiar with the new mandatory requirements, and who previously didn’t have in-house safety training programs in place.
Finnson said this basic training doesn’t require expensive consultants to co-ordinate or manage, but it is a universal program, affecting workers who might not normally never need to think about health and safety issues, such as office staff.
The “working at heights” provisions, while more specialized, are also more challenging, she indicated.
The Ministry of Labour has scheduled consultations across the province – including in Ottawa in late March, for the rather extensive changes in qualification requirements for fall-protection training and training providers, now called Working at Heights.
Under the old rules, workers could “get a fall protection certification online, with a short video.”
Now, qualified trainers will need to go through their own training, including demonstrations of putting the equipment on properly and how to inspect it – and the trainers must have their own equipment (possibly at a cost of $5,000 to $8,000 or more per trainer.) The training course for trainers may require more than six hours of time, plus the trainers must be qualified with five years personal safety harness experience work experience, she said.
Finnson said she anticipates that the government will need to allow contractors some time to comply with the new regulations, especially if they are to go into effect this summer and they haven’t been completely drafted yet.