The Ontario Minister of Labour (MoL) has established a new advisory group to support the implementation of a construction safety action plan which aims to decrease injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
"I am very proud to be here today (May 21) to announce the formation of what I think is a very skilled and talented advisory group, which is going to be led by my Parliamentary Assistant MPP Mike Colle and Chief Prevention Officer for the province of Ontario George Gritziotis," said Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.
"We have put an advisory panel together to quickly develop an action plan to address the health and safety issues in construction. We will be taking a very focused, targeted and sustained approach to addressing these kinds of incidents."
Flynn made the announcement at Queen's Park with the new University of Toronto law department building under construction in the background to underscore the importance of safety.
"We have mobilized the labour management advisory panel, who will advise me on the development of a comprehensive health and safety action plan for the construction industry in Ontario," said Gritziotis.
"The advisory group will start work immediately and I have already been in touch with advisory group members, who will be providing me with the advice for the development of an action plan. It's also a big part of establishing a stakeholder network throughout the construction industry in Ontario and mobilize them in this effort."
The advisory group consists of an equal number of labour and management representatives, which include four members from a range of construction trade unions and four from the non-residential and residential construction sectors.
The work of the advisory group will build on actions the government is already taking to improve safety for construction workers.
"The working at heights training was the immediate deliverable, we will be working on standards and a regulatory proposal for the mandatory entry-level training for the construction industry later this year," said Gritziotis. "We are also going to be pushing forward with a number of targeted blitzes in construction as well."
The working at heights training program came into effect on April 1, 2015, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The training is required for workers who use fall protection systems.
This regulatory measure is a key recommendation made by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, which was headed by Tony Dean.
The panel was a response to the Toronto swing-stage tragedy, in which four construction workers plunged 13 storeys to their deaths while conducting apartment restoration work on Dec. 24, 2009.
The second deliverable of the action plan is mandatory entry-level health and safety training for all construction workers, which is also a recommendation of the Dean expert panel.
Gritziotis said the MoL is currently talking with other levels of government to determine what areas should be targeted for enforcement.
MoL inspectors are conducting a safety blitz in May and June to check that employers are taking appropriate and effective action to assess and address hazards and protect workers.
The biggest risk is of workers being struck by vehicles and large pieces of mobile equipment, so the inspectors will check that:
— Projects are planned and organized to reduce the frequency of vehicles operating in reverse and that dump trucks are equipped with alarms when operating in reverse;
— Measures and procedures exist for the safe movement of equipment and;
— High visibility clothing is worn by all workers who may be endangered by vehicle traffic.
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