What to expect from new Working at Heights training legislation

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

24% decrease in fall injuries in first 16 months for Newfoundland and Labrador

Working at Heights safety training – information sheet

Worker clipping on fall protection lineOn April 1, 2015, the new Working at Heights Training Program Standard will become mandatory for all Ontario construction projects regulated by the Regulations for Construction Projects. The standard legislates specific requirements for training programs, as well as for training providers. 

“This initiative has to help,” says Shawn Kirwan, Emergency Services Specialist with Ontario Mine Rescue, a division of Workplace Safety North (WSN). Kirwan has 18 years’ experience in active emergency services, as well as extensive training and experience in rescue from heights, an integral part of both surface and underground mining. 

As fall protection trainer for Ontario Mine Rescue Officers, Kirwan found himself, over the years, becoming a resource for many specialized enquiries and requests for guidance from a wide variety of industries. In 2011, WSN was contracted by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador to help review and approve all training provider coursework, as well as evaluate and approve all individual Fall Protection and Confined Space trainers in the province. 

Other provinces already see improvement in worker safety

After Newfoundland and Labrador introduced mandatory, approved Working at Heights training on January 1, 2012, reported fall injuries dropped by 24 per cent in the first 16 months.

“The Newfoundland experience is already demonstrating a reduction in fall-related injuries and fatalities,” says Kirwan. “Falls account for significant numbers of lost-time injuries, and are likely the most debilitating, longest recovery, and most expensive – in many respects – incurred in industry. I’m actually quite confident in predicting Ontario will experience a similar improvement in worker safety.”Chart showing Falls from Height Injuries 2007-2013 in NL

“In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have been focused on reducing the number of injuries from fall from heights for some time, in fact the injury rate has been decreasing since 2009,” says Leslie Galway, CEO, Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador. “The injury rate started to creep up in 2011, then we saw an immediate drop with the introduction of our Fall Protection Training Standard in 2012 – even with employment levels rising significantly in the province.”

Worker tightening fall protection harnessKirwan continues to work with the NL commission primarily to provide technical advice on course content and instructor capabilities. Currently, regular re-certification with a 16-hour course is the requirement for training providers in that province. Provinces with a Working at Heights safety training standard in place have experienced a reduction in fall-related injuries and fatalities and soon, hopefully, Ontario will experience a similar improvement in worker safety.

Important legal definitions you should know

‘Construction activity’ can occur in any industry in Ontario in connection with a project. Typical examples include whenever new machinery is installed, structures undergo maintenance, renovation, or repairs, shafts or tunnels are built, or land is cleared. Regardless of sector, it’s all construction activity – and that may include the risk of falls from heights. 

The new standard for working at heights in Ontario is activity-based, which makes it applicable to construction projects in any industry, as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Typically, businesses find themselves on a ‘construction project’ whenever they’re in a building or maintenance phase,” says Kirwan. “Quite often, they might be adding a new building, or conducting a large maintenance shutdown – both of which would be considered a construction project. So, whenever they find themselves in constructor role, this Working at Heights Standard will apply.”

Top 3 things employers should know

According to Kirwan, the new Ontario Working at Heights Standard offers three main benefits:

1. Reduction in injuries and fatalities from falls, due to the fact the training is mandatory, and the standard prescribes curriculum content, delivery guidelines, learner outcomes, minimum equipment, and minimum training hours for each learner.

2. Protection for workers from incurring falls by providing basic theory instruction on fall protection and prevention. The basic theory module is three hours in duration, which is likely a significant increase in the training exposure many workers now receive in fall protection.

3. Limited class size depending on the method of delivery. The practical equipment module must be delivered face-to-face, and will be specific to fall protection equipment and practices which are common to many industries and working at height situations. 

Fast Facts

If your workers face fall hazards, you’re required to provide fall protection training.

Is the new training standard mandatory? Not yet. But it will be. The standard will become mandatory when the regulatory amendments come into effect April 1, 2015. Initially, these amendments will affect firms that operate under the Construction Projects Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91). Later, it is expected to be phased-in to apply to other sectors. 

What should you do? Provide workers with training for working at heights that meets or exceeds the new standard. Working at Heights safety training from WSN helps ensure you’re in compliance with legislation. This one-day course provides a comprehensive overview of legislated requirements, hazards, and hazard controls related to working at heights. Designed for compliance with the MOL Working at Heights Program Standard, learners receive the most up-to-date information with hands-on instruction from industry experts and trained adult educators.

How often is refresher training required? For workers covered under Regulations for Construction Projects, current Working at Heights training is valid for two years from the date of completion; in addition, workers are required to complete site-specific falls prevention training that meets the requirements of section 26.2 of O.Reg 213/91 (Construction Projects); however, once the new Working at Heights training standard is approved by the Ministry of Labour, training for these workers is valid for three years. 

For workers covered by all other regulations, including Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants and Regulations for Industrial Establishments, Working at Heights training frequency is determined by the employer. WSN recommends refresher training at least every three years. 

Related information

How to apply new Working at Heights Standard to industrial sector
Falls from elevation are a significant hazard in the industrial sector

How to apply new Working at Heights Standard to mining sector
Falls from heights a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities

Update on new safety training standard for working at heights
'Construction activity' applies to can be found in all industries in Ontario