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Ontario chief prevention officer issues call to action on workplace fatalities

By COS Staff

Ontario's chief prevention officer, George Gritziotis, has issued a statement calling on all stakeholders to reduce the number of workplace fatalities related to falls. Since June, nine workers have died on the job as a result of falls in Ontario.

"I am extremely distressed by the number of workplace fatalities related to falls that have occurred recently. What is even more disturbing is that falls are one of the most common workplace tragedies," he said. "These needless, intolerable tragedies must be stopped now."

Everyone has a duty to ensure that workers return home safe at the end of every workday. Everyone must work together to ensure that health and safety hazards are eliminated from workplaces and that employers, supervisors and workers comply with the law, he said.

To help prevent these tragedies, the Ministry of Labour launched a falls hazards blitz in the construction sector in September that continues through October. 

It is also in the process of a province-wide enforcement initiative targeting hazards of sloped roofing at low-rise residential construction sites. 

An after-hours pilot inspection project at construction sites across Ontario is also underway. This three-month initiative started in July.

A critical foundational step to improve workplace safety is to invest in awareness and education about rights and responsibilities, and about best practices, said Gritziotis. Earlier this year, the prevention office consulted stakeholders about proposed regulations to make health and safety awareness training mandatory for workers and supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The ministry will announce new training requirements in the coming weeks.

The Ministry of Labour is developing a Working at Heights Training Program Standard, which emphasizes hands-on experience and knowledge while also reinforcing a health and safety culture when working at heights. A standard is being developed in collaboration with workplace partners (labour and business) this fall, said Gritziotis.

The Ministry of Labour and Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) are delivering a province-wide co-ordinated initiative focusing on residential roofing, including:

• a targeted enforcement initiative focused on hazards at low-rise, sloped residential roofing sites being led by the Ministry of Labour, throughout August and September

• safety awareness seminars for residential roofers offered through IHSA, beginning Sept. 18 in Sudbury, Ont., and running until Nov. 25 in London, Ont.

"We cannot achieve the goal of safe workplaces alone," said Gritziotis. "The recent workplace fatalities are a painful reminder to us that we — each and every one of us — must take direct, personal responsibility for prevention, regardless of where we work."

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