Ontario Ministry of Labour "working at heights" course modules will soon be mandatory

For those who have not heard yet, well here it is: every contractor or persons on construction sites in Ontario, including home renovations and those delivering product (!) will ALL have to re take the NEW fall arrest or working at heights courses modules 1 & 2  that appear to be coming into force on July 1st, 2014.

safety matters

All these changes were implemented due to the terrible Christmas Eve disaster in 2009, when four workers died when they fell from 13 stories off a scaffold that collapsed. The CEO of the construction company involvedwas fined, went to jail for a period of time and – to the best of my knowledge – the company went bankrupt.

If you do not have a fall course completion card on your possession at this time,you are not in compliance with current laws and could well be stopped from working, even though you may only be a one-person sole proprietor business. Everyone has to carry this card, so I implore you right now to contact a reputable trainer, including CARAHS (see our contact information below) to obtain this certification.

Everyone who presently has an existing card, as long as it’s not over three years old, will be given a two-year window, once the new law becomes effective, to complete the new training. If your card is over three years old right now, this (in my experience) is too old and if you are caught by the Ontario Ministry of Labour you would immediately be pulled off the job and ordered to get training.

This new module 1 and 2 standards course completion card will have an expiry of three years. Also, for the first time, all trainers will be certified by the Ontario MoL and have to be re trained after a period of time. The total hours of training for both courses should not be less than 6-1/2 hours. The reason for this is to eradicate those trainers who come on job sites and do a one hour course or deliver cards in a more “indirect” way, if I can say this tactfully. This is why I highlighted in my third paragraph the word reputable.

The Ontario MoL is serious about this huge change. Last year, for the first time, it made it law that on every job site (whether industrial, commercial, residential new home construction, individual custom home construction and home renovation) the MoL’s new poster must be displayed for everyone to read. This was on top of the required WSIB 1,2,3,4 poster. If you need these posters, or information on this policy, contact us below.

Everyone has to take course module 1, no matter what you do in construction. Even if you don’t necessarily work at heights regularly (for example, tile and floor layers, carpet installers, duct cleaners, everyone) you must take module 1. Module 2 would also be required if you climb ladders more frequently, work over 8 feet and more.

Some of you might argue that you do not work at heights. For example, if you are a flooring installer. Yet if you climb a staircase to install flooring on a second level and there is no hand rail in place on the stairway, you aere open to falls. Furthermore, when laying flooring, you could encounter a hole that is, say, cut into the ground floor, where the fall into the basement would be over 8 feet. In this situtation you are still considered to be “working at height.”

I personally disagreed with the MoL at a recent Toronto feedback session about the words used to describe the module 1 course. I thought it sounded confusing and should be changed to “Slips, trips, falls and working at height.” This I thought sounded  clearer than their present proposed “Working at heights basic module.” My contribution to the discussion was noted, but I don’t hold out much hope for this change. After all, clarity has not been a strong point in the enforcement of rules in this industry, especially when it comes to self-employed contractors in the home renovations and home services industry.

This article can also be viewed at Canadian Contractor.ca

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