If you have people working at heights and performing work covered under the construction regulations, get ready to comply with a new training standard that takes effect April 1. The standard requires that people working at heights on construction projects receive training if they are using travel restraint systems, fall restricting systems, fall arrest systems, safety nets, work belts and safety belts. A companion standard sets out requirements for training providers.
These requirements apply to your workplace if you're undertaking any of these projects:
- moving a building or structure
- installing machinery
- constructing a building, bridge, structure, industrial establishment, mining plant, shaft, tunnel, caisson, trench, excavation, highway, railway, street, runway, parking lot, cofferdam, conduit, sewer, watermain, service connection, telephone or electrical cable, pipeline, duct or well, or any combination thereof.1
"What this means," says WSPS consultant Lois Weeks, "is that if you're the constructor for any of these projects, you have to make sure that everyone working at heights has received training that meets the standard, and that the Ministry of Labour has approved the training provider."
"Even if you've outsourced the construction work to a general contractor," continues Weeks, "you're still responsible for ensuring the contractor is in compliance because the ministry considers you the project owner and the contractor's employer."
Why it's needed
Falls are responsible for one in six lost-time injuries, which are often debilitating and costly. However, training standards have been proven to reduce the number of injuries: 16 months after Newfoundland and Labrador introduced mandatory working at heights training, reported fall injuries had dropped by 24%.
From a prevention perspective, the new standards will improve worker knowledge and strengthen workplace safety culture by establishing a threshold of high quality, consistent training for people working at heights.
Even if you don't have any construction projects in your workplace at this time, it's still in your best interests to be prepared. "Construction projects often arise because something's gone wrong," explains Weeks. "If machinery needs replacing or the roof has started to leak, you could be scheduling a construction project in short order."
6 steps to keep your people and your business safe
Lois Weeks offers these suggestions:
- Understand what the new training standards involve. The ministry may extend them to other sectors, so even if they don't apply to you now, they may apply soon.
- Know what regulation the work being done in your facility falls under. Even if your workplace is considered industrial, some of the work being done might not be. A surprising number of things are actually construction by definition.
- Review your working at heights policy, procedures and training to ensure they're up to date. Keep all training records current.
- Review or implement a contractor safety program, so that it's ready to go whenever you hire a contractor.
- If you outsource training, ensure your provider is in compliance.
- Conduct or update a hazard assessment to ensure you've identified all potential fall hazards, and eliminated or controlled them.
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