Working at Heights in Ontario

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working at heights

Understanding the rules, dispelling the myths

By Bruce Bolduc

Special to the Ontario Construction Report

As most people in Ontario are aware, the Ministry of Labour has introduced a new requirement for people who are exposed to falls at work, to be trained. This initiative came about due to the large number of workers being hurt or killed from workplace fall accidents

The Ministry of Labour, through its new Prevention Branch, initiated a series of stakeholder meetings to determine the best course of action to reduce or eliminate these injuries and fatalities. Representatives from all sectors were given an opportunity to review the statistics and to share their ideas about how to best improve the work environment.

The Prevention Branch then created a draft training requirements proposal and circulated it to the stakeholders.

The program’s launch is, at this time, limited to just the construction sector, as this is where the majority of incidents have occurred.

Unfortunately there has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation circulating about the program since its launch. Hopefully some of the issues can be addressed simply.

 

  • The program came into effect as of April 1, 2015. That does not mean that all workers need to be trained as of that date. The legislative change did not take place until that date.
  • There is no “grandfathering” of and fall protection, or working at heights training.
  • All workers in construction who may be exposed to a fall hazard as per section 26 of the OHSA 213/91 edition June 2014, must be trained to the new standard.

In addition, there are few rules:

  • All training for Working at Heights must be conducted by an approved training provider that is approved by the Ministry of Labour.
  • The record of training will be issued only by the Ministry of Labour after successful completion of the approved course.
  • Any training for fall protection, fall prevention or working at heights, conducted before April 1, 2015, will be valid until April1, 2017, as long as it meets the requirements of 26.2 of the regulations. Proof of training will be required.
  • The maximum number of students per class is 24 for theory and 12 for practical.
  • The minimum time for training is 6.5 hours. This is as per the approval process of the Ministry of Labour.
  • The training must have a theory and practical component and must have an evaluation process that can be audited.

As of this writing there are 31 approved training providers in Ontario.

It is also important to look at some of the current myths circulating:

Myth 1: There is no equivalent program to the Ministry of Labour program.

There have been a few American firms and online providers claiming to offer the equivalent. One particular online company says it meets all provincial legislation in Canada. Only in the FAQ section do they admit they do not meet Ontario or Newfoundland’s regulations.

Myth 2: These rules do not apply if you are American or from out of province while working in Ontario.

All workers in Ontario who may be exposed to a fall hazard as per the OHSA 213/91, must be trained.

Myth 3: Ladders are banned in construction.

Not true. The Ministry of Labour has issued a position paper on ladder use in construction stating a risk assessment must be completed prior to using a ladder. The paper is available from the Ministry of Labour web site or our web site among others.

Myth 4: Harnesses and lanyards etc. are only good for five years.

There is no law that states this. The manufacturer recommends replacement after five years of service. All fall protection equipment must be inspected by a competent person prior to each use. If there is damage, defect or sufficient wear, it must be taken out of service immediately.

Myth 5: High visibility garments with the slot to accommodate the use of a D ring cannot be used.    No regulation to that affect exists. No garment can interfere with the proper deployment of the fall protection equipment however so wearing a coat over the harness and lanyard is not allowed.

As a final note, we should be aware that any employer can create a policy that exceeds the regulations. That can also be enforced as law. This means that, for example, a constructor may require that all workers on a site must be trained to the new standard before entering the site. All workers then must be trained to the new standard.

For further information on Working at Heights, please go to www.labour.gov.on.ca. You can also contact our office at info@buildwithsafety.com.

Bruce Bolduc is the president of Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd. He is also past-chair of the Ontario Home Builders Health and Safety Committee, a Member of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, and has CRSP, CHSC and Gold Seal certification for safety through the Canadian Construction Association.

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