Ontario establishes construction health and safety action plan advisory group

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Labour, employers support initiative

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Ontario has established an advisory group to assist the government in the development and implementation of a Construction Health and Safety Action Plan, the provincial government announced in late May.

The action plan, with equal representation from labour and employer representatives, will strengthen workplace injury and illness prevention for construction workers across the province, the government said.

It will work with parliamentary assistant Mike Colle and the province’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis on finding best ways to: 

  • Increase the commitment to health and safety in construction workplaces;

  • Enhance training for workers in the construction sector;

  • Work with other enforcement authorities and municipalities to improve safety;

  • Build an awareness about construction health and safety among young people;

  • Encourage effective supervision of construction workers;

  • Ensure legislation and regulations are better understood by the construction sector; and

  •  Ensure effective consumer outreach strategies

The employer representatives from home building, ICI construction and the home renovation sectors includes Dave McLean from Mattamy Homes; Mike Wieninger, PCL Constructors Inc.; Steve Riddell, EllisDon Corporation and Tom McLaughlin, Thomasfield.

The labour representatives are: Cosmo Mannella, LiUNA Ontario Provincial District Council; Mike Yorke, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario; Joe Dowdall, International Union of Operating Engineers, and James Hogarth, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.

The government announcement says the advisory group will build on actions that the government is already taking to improve safety for construction workers including new mandatory Working at Heights Training Standard.

“Improving health and safety in the construction sector is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario,” the announcement says. “The four-part plan is building Ontario up by making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history, investing in people’s talents and skills, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.”

Organized labour applauded the advisory council’s establishment.

In 2013, 26 per cent of Ontario workplace deaths were in the construction industry, despite it only accounting for seven per cent of the workforce.

“The continued number of construction workplace injuries and fatalities is unacceptable,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building Trades. “The current system faces complex challenges,” he said in a news release.

“The best chance for success will have to entail close co-operation between workers, employers and government, but also a systemic shift in the way that health and safety is talked about, perceived, and acted upon.

“To achieve success, health and safety must be at the forefront of every project – from the procurement and design phase, to workforce preparation and training, to project completion, and at every step in between,” said Dillon, adding that “ongoing worker intimidation fuels the continuation of traumatic incidents in the workplace.”

Building Trades Council president James Hogarth, who was appointed to the advisory group,
said: “Decisive action is needed based on sound evidence from what is happening in construction. I look forward to joining fellow industry colleagues as we embark on this urgent process that we hope will save lives.”

Meanwhile, CLAC also expressed support for the initiative. Andrew Regnerus, the organization’s Ontario construction co-oordinator, and Colin deRaaf, Ontario training director, attended the announcement and were asked to be significant participants.

“Through the discussions we hope to get at the root of the key challenges impacting construction health and safety in the province,” says CLAC provincial director Hank Beekhuis,

CLAC said in a news release it has had great success in creating safe workplaces by working collaboratively with its contractors to approach issues and find solutions that work.

“We are proud to have an excellent safety record, but we will not stop there,” says Beekhuis. “We will use our experience and success in construction health and safety training to drive forward answers for the industry that will achieve the shared goal of zero injuries and zero fatalities, so that every worker can come home safe at the end of the day.”

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