March 11, 2014 by Lynne Bard
In Canada, over 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall accidents. This number represents about 17% of the “time-loss injuries” accepted by workers’ compensation boards or commissions across Canada. Between June and mid-September of last year, nine workers died as a result from falling from heights.
Ontario has put into place a new safety training standard to prevent falls and to improve safety for workers that work from heights. This standard will be reviewed at least every 5 years. Right now, the standard is voluntary and will apply to workplaces in the construction sector, as well as to construction activity in other workplaces. It is expected to become mandatory by this summer and later will be expanding to all sectors.
Workplace falls remain a leading cause of injury and death. The new standard coming into place will be building on existing protections for those working from heights which will establish a consistent and high quality level of training for workers across the province. Various sectors were involved in developing this new safety standard. These sectors include business, organized labour, health and safety organizations and other experts.
This program is designed to support consistent and quality training for workers in the province of Ontario, with respect to core competencies required for working at heights. The training program can also be customized to address the specific hazards of a sector and the common equipment and machinery used in that sector, as long as the learning outcomes outlined in this standard are achieved. The training will be valid for three years after a person has successfully completed it.
The requirements of this standard are to:
• Strengthen workplace safety culture by elevating the profile and importance of preventing falls from heights;
• Provide workers who may be exposed to the hazard of falling with adequate knowledge about fall hazards and general safety practices to work safely at heights;
• Provide workers who use personal fall protection equipment with sufficient knowledge about its purpose and use; and
• Reduce the number of fall-from-heights incidents, injuries and fatalities.
The Working from Heights Training program is split into two sections: Working from Heights Basic Theory Module and the Working from Heights Practice Equipment Module. Both Modules are compulsory for workers who use travel restraint systems, fall restricting systems, fall arrest systems, or safety nets as a source of protection against fall hazards.
The working from heights basic training module contains:
• Rights and responsibilities related to working at heights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
• General hazard recognition for working at heights;
• Hierarchy of controls,
• Safety procedures for warning methods and physical barriers;
• Safety procedures for ladders and similar equipment; and
• An introduction to personal fall protection equipment
The working from heights practical equipment module contains:
• Barriers and safety nets;
• Personal protective equipment;
• Anchor points;
• Work positioning systems, work access and platforms; and
• Rescue planning
Jim LaFontaine, Health, Safety and Environmental Manager, Dufferin Construction Company has said “Construction usually involves working outdoors in all types of conditions. Often, our employees must work at heights on unfinished structures or on scaffolding. We are eager to adopt the new standard to increase our employees’ safety knowledge and better protect them on the job.”
Something as simple as one strong gust of wind can send a worker off the edge and into a life or death situation. With this new training standard workers will gain the thorough knowledge needed to keep themselves and co-workers safe.