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Ontario implementing mandatory training for drill rig operators


Ontario has passed amendments under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to ensure workers operating rotary foundation drill rigs are properly trained and licensed.

Rotary foundation drill rigs are used for boring holes in soil in order to install foundations or earth retention structures. The amendments include new technical and operational safety measures and procedures as well as mandatory drill rig operator training and certification.

While the amendments have been passed in regulation, the new drill rig requirements under the OHSA will come into effect on July 1, 2016.

"Mandatory training of rotary drill rig operators will provide better protection for both the operators of the equipment and also for the workers on construction sites in Ontario," said Mike Gallagher, business manager of Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. "These drill rigs are massive pieces of heavy equipment and the changes will ensure that workers must have adequate knowledge, proficiency and proper training when operating such a rig."

The union has been fighting for mandatory training since Local 793 apprentice Kyle Knox lost his life when a drill rig collapsed at a subway construction site at York University in Toronto on Oct. 11, 2011. Twenty-four-year-old Knox was killed when the drill rig toppled onto the backhoe he was operating. Another Local 793 member, Dan DeLuca, was also injured in the accident.

An investigation determined that major factors in the tipping of the drill rig were inadequate site preparation, a soil base unable to withstand the weight and pressure created by the drill rig combined with a procedure of digging dispersal holes filled with wet material, and the fact the drill rig was operating on a slope greater than allowed within safe parameters.

No other jurisdiction in Canada has explicit training requirements for drill rig operators in their health and safety legislation. These changes will build on actions that the province is already taking to improve safety for construction workers including the Working at Heights Training requirements and the development of Ontario's Construction Health and Safety Action Plan.

Ontario has also approved amendments to protect workers from overexposure to hazardous chemical and biological substances including carbon monoxide released by internal combustion engines.

Ontario’s construction industry has traditionally experienced higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities compared to other workplace sectors. There were 200 critical injuries in construction last year and 21 fatalities.

“To break the cycle of fatalities in our construction sector, we need higher health and safety standards," said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

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