Workers Health & Safety Centre

Working at heights enforcement remains top Ministry priority

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.”

Employer responsibilities

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.

Standardized training works

Two recently released Ontario studies demonstrate why mandatory, standardized working at heights training is so critical to worker well-being. One study prepared by the MOL for the Chief Prevention Officer undertook root cause analysis of worker deaths from falls from heights. Lack of work site instruction and lack of fall prevention training were among the most common contributing factors, as were improper wearing of fall arrest equipment, improper guarding and harmful conditions. Although, clearly all these factors can be tied to the lack of proper training. In the second, more recent study, the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) conducted an evaluation of the impact Ontario’s working at heights training standard had on workers and their work sites. They found working at heights safety practices substantially improved, including guarding against fall hazards and maintaining 100 per cent tie-off. Most important, although the training regulation was so new, lost-time injury claim rates owing to falls decreased by 19.6 per cent.
 
Not surprising then was recent news that fall protection no longer tops the list of compliance orders issued by MOL inspectors. In fact, violence and harassment-related orders now top this list.
 
In the wake of these studies and statistics, many are calling for an extension of a mandatory, working at heights training standard to workers in other sectors, and for that matter, mandatory, standardized training to help protect workers against violence and harassment and other significant hazards.

Need to comply? WHSC can help!

Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) is a leading provider of MOL-approved Working at Heights training. Our comprehensive one-day programis:
  • priced competitively ($120/person plus HST),
  • designed to ensure critical learning is achieved,
  • delivered by experienced instructors from the trades, and
  • supported by complete training records and replacement cards when needed.

To ensure access to this life-saving and mandatory training, the WHSC continues to add training dates in cities across Ontario for both MOL-approved WAH Training and WAH Refresher Training.
 
Don’t see a date that works for you?
Call 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a WHSC training services representative. With enough participants we can bring this training directly to your work site or facility.

Need more WAH information still?
Check out our online Working at Heights information resources.