The Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) and allies devoted a day to promoting safety in the workplace recently with a series of awards and new program announcements but there was one item of news that impressed on the stakeholders that the job of ensuring workplace safety must remain a high priority.
After 15 years of statistics showing steady improvement in construction workplace safety, members attending the OGCA's Safety Award Breakfast Ceremony in Mississauga on Sept. 29 were told that for the second year in a row the sector's lost-time injury (LTI) rate had increased.
Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) president and CEO Enzo Garritano revealed the LTI rate from the recent July to July period had increased 11 per cent, and in an interview pointed to the IHSA website which documented other double-digit increases: a 21 per cent increase in injuries to new workers, a 28 per increase in injuries due to machinery and a 19 per cent increase in injuries to young workers.
Garritano said the statistics included the utilities and transportation sectors as well as construction.
Stakeholders interviewed said the numbers illustrated the value of the safety programs supported by the OGCA and celebrated at the event.
The safety day program included recognition of the growth of the IHSA's Certificate of Recognition (COR) safety program, which the OGCA is a major supporter of, awarding of a new batch of League of Champions (LOC) jerseys, new Ministry of Labour funding to help expand the LOC program and the presentation of awards to top Ontario health and safety contractors.
"I think what it really does is it defines the importance of meetings like this," said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn of the LTI numbers. "As much as we like to say Ontario is one of the safest places to work in the world, it doesn't mean you rest on your laurels. I think what this shows is that you've got to manage this every single second of every single day, because if you don't, the trend could easily go the other way."
"Sometimes people get complacent," said Craig Lesurf, Walsh Canada vice-president and chair of the OGCA safety committee. "I have been doing it for 30 years, it only takes one day, one moment in time for something to happen and we need to be aware of that."
But, he said, "The League of Champions is changing the safety culture and driving it into the grassroots and getting buy-in from the top down and the bottom up. Those are the two ways of doing it and I think that is why it works."
The event started with an address by MySafeWork founder Rob Ellis, who reported on his recent efforts touring the country and speaking with young people about the LOC program.
"They ask challenging questions," he said. "One young lady asked, 'How many people are we killing?' "
The answer, worldwide, is 5,761 workers are killed around the world each day, he said. And in Canada, he said, "We bury three people a day.
"That's three families, three companies, three communities," said Ellis. "Three is not good enough, we need to drive that down to zero. With your leadership, I told her, we can get to that next level."
Flynn followed up on that theme.
"Companies that have achieved zero lost-time injuries are being recognized this morning," he said. "When we talk about getting to that zero, it means that everybody has to get to zero. If we can do it, you can do it, and if we all do it, it is done."
Since 2003, Flynn said, the province has chopped workplace incidents in half, but the job is not done. The goal is to continue — to a drop of 60 per cent, 70 per cent, 80 per cent, he said.
OGCA director of government relations David Frame commented on the progress of the COR program in an interview, noting there are 900 firms registered with 200 certified.
"It shows a lot of good intentions but they are not completing that good intention yet," he said. "It is those 700 firms we need to move forward."
Among numerous safety awards handed out, three companies were honoured for completing over one million hours worked without an LTI: Ball Construction, McKay-Cocker Construction and PCL Constructors Canada.
Firms achieving over 500,000 hours worked without an LTI were Buttcon Limited, Gillam Group Inc., J. J. McGuire General Contractors, North America Construction (1993) Ltd., Bennett Mechanical Installations (2001) Ltd., Barclay Construction Group Inc. and Harbridge & Cross Limited.