As blogged on the Workers Health & Safety Centre website, fines, orders, stop work orders and even jail terms have been among recent consequences for employers failing to meet minimum working at heights provisions under Ontario law.
A Windsor-area electrical company for instance must pay $87,500 after pleading guilty for failing to provide fall protection and adequate training to protect a worker who suffered critical injuries. The worker fell through the ceiling and to the floor while attempting to install new light fixtures at an industrial facility.
During their last working at heights blitz, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors visited 707 construction projects and issued 2,158 orders for non-compliance with requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, orders which included 191 stop work orders.
Most recently, the owner of a Bellville, Ontario roofing company was sentenced to seven days in jail after pleading guilty for failing to provide adequate fall protection. This same owner had three similar and prior convictions and had already been sentenced to serve one day in jail.
According to the MOL press release announcing this second jail sentence, “Fall protection contraventions are considered to be one of the ‘killer contraventions’ within the Province of Ontario and are treated extremely seriously by the Ministry of Labour.”
The MOL is currently targeting workplaces in all sectors, including construction, looking specifically at slips, trips and fall hazards. Their inspectors are looking to see that employers have assessed and taken steps to control these hazards and provided fall protection and working at heights training.
Beyond the legal obligation to provide adequate fall protection, under the Construction regulations Ontario employers are required to ensure a construction worker who may use a fall protection system is adequately trained in its use and given adequate oral and written instructions by a competent person [s. 26.2(1)]. Since 2015, however “adequate” in Ontario means employers in the construction sector must also ensure construction workers complete a MOL-approved working at heights (WAH) training program, delivered by a MOL-approved provider, before they start work at heights and use fall protection equipment.
This approved WAH training is valid for three years from the date of successful completion. For continued compliance, employers must ensure workers they employ complete an approved WAH refresher training every three years thereafter.
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