The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the demand for safety training across the construction industry and Construction Workplace Safety Training Limited (CWST) is meeting the increasing demand with new and expanded programs.
John Ridler joined CWST in 2019 and since then he has revised the Suspended Access Platforms, commonly referred to as “Swingstages” program to conform with new ministry requirements, helped to develop new clients, and create a new program to instruct workers in the use of Boatswain’s (Bosun’s) Chairs.
“Our Suspended Access program at CWST has developed into an excellent program giving new users the knowledge, experience and confidence to use a swingstage,” he said.
“I have also received a lot of positive feedback from seasoned users about the quality of our program. Perhaps you can teach and old dog a few things. Our Suspended Access program is getting a lot of recognition and has kept me quite busy, even during Covid shutdowns.”
His next project will be to update the scaffold program to instruct workers on the erection and disassembly of system scaffold, in addition to the safe use of scaffold systems.
“John has successful developed and grown the swing stage courses and the training has grown significantly through the pandemic, drawing participants from all across the GTA and throughout Ontario,” said Craig Nicholson, Director, Construction Workplace Safety Training Limited.
One course is for users and one is for installers. There is a scaffolding program that John will be delivering as well.
“It’s another value-added course that strengthens the diversity of CWST and supports our reputation being preferred providers in technical training.”
Ridler was introduced to the industry in 2006 and started full time with Scafom Canada in 2008.
“I was never comfortable with heights, and started there doing carpentry and equipment servicing,” he said. “Because of my aptitude and desire to learn new things and problem solve I was brought into the hoist repair shop. I grew into that position and later ran a team of 4 hoist mechanics, working closely with the manufacturers, suppliers, and workers on construction sites.”
His responsibilities included managing service calls when customers had problems with their stage, gaining experience on “broken” stages, trouble shooting the issues and solving problems.
“My duties at Scafom continued to grow, encompassing the other stage components and eventually was promoted to a supervisory position for the swingstage division at Scafom. I also had to develop a good understanding of scaffold, Scafom’s other division, working with the design engineers and erection crews. Swingstages are actually considered a specialty “suspended scaffold” system.”
A tragic swingstage accident in Toronto in 2009 where four workers died, and a fifth suffered serious injuries brought about significant changes for fall protection with the launch of the Working At Heights program in 2015. That same incident affected the swingstage industry and in 2017 the Ministry of Labour brought in stricter regulations to improve safety for swingstage users.
Stricter inspection criteria had to be enforced. I worked with our equipment suppliers to develop new policies and procedures to meet ministry requirements.
CWST offers a wide range of safety training courses and Ridler focuses his time on Working At Heights, Suspended Access , Elevated Platforms, and Forklift, customizing
classes to place more focus on the specific equipment or site requirements that companies encounter. In house we have a wide range of equipment to give learners practical experience, but we also offer on-site training to clients.
In addition to developing and delivering training programs, Ridler stays connected to the industry completing construction site safety audits and consulting with site supervisors to improve safety on sites.
“I enjoy getting “into the trenches” with workers and have seen a distinct change since I started the audits,” he said.
“In the beginning workers would flee . . . suddenly it was coffee break as soon as the safety guy arrived on site. Now I find workers seeking me, my ideas, and my advice when I am on site. Although I do report to site management, including infractions, the workers have adopted me as their ally. My goal is the safety of all workers, and this seems to present itself both in the classroom and on site.”