Working at heights training protects against worst case scenario

When an accident happens on a construction site Bruce Bolduc is one of the people companies will call to do an investigation of what happened.

Bolduc is the president of Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd. which offers training programs as well as consultation and investigation.

“In the last 16-plus years I’ve been doing this I’ve had to investigate eight fatalities and 19 major critical injuries and out of the fatalities I knew three of the guys and they were all younger than me” he said.

Three of the fatalities were heart attacks but the other five were preventable he said.

Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd. is one of the companies approved by the province to provide training under its new working at heights regulations which mandate a two-module daylong program for all of those in the sector by Oct. 1.

“It’s important that everyone’s trained and does the job properly. We have the equipment we have the technology we have the knowledge. It’s a matter of utilizing it” Bolduc said.

The local homebuilders’ association has been running sessions in hopes of getting everyone trained who needs to be. The next sessions are scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13.

Everyone who works at heights needs to have completed the training said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Labour.

“Homeowners should be aware that the employer is responsible to ensure that workers are adequately trained to do the job. A homeowner under certain circumstances can become a ‘constructor’ as defined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and as such has certain obligations under OHSA to ensure the health and safety of workers hired” wrote Janet Deline in an email to the Echo.

“If a homeowner decides to contract one or more contractors by himself/herself they may become the constructor/employer and thus assume the responsibilities to ensure that the workers are adequately trained to do the job.”

Haliburton Home Builders’ Association president Nathan Petrini echoed the ministry’s sentiment and said homeowners need to do their due diligence when hiring people to do work around their homes.

“You want to make sure the contractors have liability insurance are covered by WSIB” he said.

“You want to make sure they’re following the rules” he said.

Ask the company you’ve hired if they have liability insurance and are covered by WSIB.

“Anybody that’s a qualified construction worker should be able to at any time pull up a clearance certificate for WSIB” he said.

The province already had training rules around safety on job sites but Deline said the new regulations came from recommendations from a 2010 panel report on occupational health and safety.

Among the recommendations “improved and standardized fall protection training is a priority as falls from heights continue to be the No. 1 source of fatalities in construction.”

The program includes two modules under the instruction of a chief prevention officer certified trainer at no less than 6.5 hours.

The first module is basic theory and the second is practical.

“The theory … is the regulation and the why: what is it we want to do and why are we doing it” said Bolduc. “Then there’s a practical component where you have to actually not only inspect all the fall protection equipment [you bring] … you also have to inspect the equipment we supply.”

The equipment the trainers supply ranges from good to poor condition.

“Then we do a scenario where they actually show us how they inspect their equipment properly don the harness and lanyard and rope grab and show us how they would use it and show us how they would disassemble” he said.

Three years after completing the training workers must complete a refresher course which means retaking the second module.

“The intent behind working at heights refresher training is to reinforce key learning outcomes and also to keep learners up to date on any legislative regulatory or equipment (technological) changes which may impact working at heights in construction” Deline said.

So far about 400000 workers have taken the training in Ontario.

Working at heights without the proper safety precautions carries stiff fines for the worker employer and company however Bolduc said when an accident happens it isn’t the money that’s top of mind for anyone.

“Having to follow up with employers and supervisors who’ve had that accident happen who’ve had that situation come about the fine is not what they’re thinking about anymore” he said.