On May 18, 2017, a construction employer in Ontario was fined $10,000 and sent to jail for failing to ensure his worker had proper fall protection when working at heights.
The employer, Steve Bell, was charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a Ministry of Labour inspection found one of his workers working at a height of 26 feet without any fall protection. Under the law, the worker should have had a travel restraint system, a safety net, or another fall-restricting system. Bell spent one day in prison and was also ordered to pay a $10,000.
This sentence serves as a reminder of the importance of ensuring workers are safe and receive working at heights training in Ontario.
Health and Safety in the Construction Industry
Working at heights without the proper safety precautions is one of the leading causes of work-related deaths in Ontario. The risk is especially great for those in the construction industry, including roofers like the one in the above example.
There are about 500,000 workers in the construction industry in Ontario. Construction only accounts for 6.7% of provincial employment, but is responsible for a third of work-related deaths and occupational disease fatality claims.
36% of deaths in the construction industry are caused by falls from heights.
Health and safety has always been a challenge in the construction industry. Many workplaces have fewer than 20 workers, meaning they do not have a JHSC (Joint Health and Safety Committee.) In Ontario, only workplaces with 20 workers or more must have a committee. Many workers also continually change workplaces, and hazards on a job site can change as the work progresses.
Mandatory Working at Heights Training
To improve work conditions, the government passed a regulation requiring all employers to ensure workers on construction projects who need to use fall protection complete a working at heights training program by an approved training provider. This has been a requirement since April 1, 2015.
Recently, the government of Ontario also implemented a Construction Health and Safety Action Plan. The plan incorporates 16 recommendations designed to prevent work-related injury and illness for construction workers in on sites across the province. As part of this initiative, the government is working to develop online tools, apps, and web portals to empower Ontario JHSCs and provide easy access to health and safety information.