Falls were the main cause of workplace fatalities in the construction sector in Ontario last year, which is why the Ministry of Labour is making falls its top priority for 2017-18.
“Working at heights without proper fall protection and training is simply not acceptable and we will prosecute those to the full extent of the law,” said Peter Augruso, assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Labour, speaking at the Partners in Prevention conference in Mississauga, Ont. on May 2.
Last year, the ministry issued 465 stop work orders to construction companies during its fall hazards blitz. The industrial sector was hit with 162 stop work orders related to work at heights. In this sector, safe ladders were a major issue.
“In this day and age we should not have to still be dealing with this,” Augruso said. “Employers must make sure ladders are working properly.”
Across all sectors, falls are the number 2 reason for occupational fatalities in Ontario, said George Gritziotis, chief prevention officer, who also spoke at the conference.
While Augruso said the ministry was “overjoyed” that 300,000 workers have completed the mandatory work at heights training program, the province still issued 9,958 orders to the construction and industrial sectors during its fall hazards blitz.
“That’s scary to me. There’s a whole bunch more that need training,” he said.
To that end, the government has extended the deadline for work at heights training from April 1 to Oct. 1 of this year.
The Ministry of Labour will also be focusing on noise this year across all sectors, in an effort to reduce the number of illnesses caused by occupational disease.
“Noise is the number 1 occupational illness and it’s the easiest to prevent by wearing the proper PPE, ensuring folks are having their earplugs inserted. It’s not that difficult,” Augruso said.
A new noise regulation came into force July 1, 2016, for all provincially regulated workers. It extended noise protection requirements to all Ontario workplaces that were not previously covered under the noise regulation, such as schools, fire services, amusement parks and health-care facilities.
Ergonomics and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are two other Ministry of Labour priority areas that extend across all sectors for 2017-18. A range of initiatives will be taking place that vary across the sectors, including: new and young workers in the industrial sector; occupational disease in mining; machine guarding in the industrial sector; struck by hazards in construction; and workplace violence in health care.
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Amanda Silliker is the editor of Canadian Occupational Safety.