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New CPO jobsite standards redefine legal obligations

Don Wall
New CPO jobsite standards redefine legal obligations

Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton has issued a set of guidelines developed by Chief Prevention Officer Ron Kelusky for best health and safety practices at construction sites during the COVID-19 crisis.

The document establishes legal responsibilities for employers, the minister noted in a statement.

The Chief Prevention Officer’s Guide was released March 29. It’s based on the March 20 Best Practices Guide that was developed through the Labour Management Committee of the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association with the participation of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA).

“The health and safety of construction workers is a top priority for our government,” said McNaughton in the statement. “With the COVID-19 situation changing day by day, we are working to ensure that workers have the tools they need to help keep job sites safe. We must do everything possible to fight the spread of this disease.”

 “This is what the Minister of Labour is going to enforce,” explained David Frame, director of government relations for the OGCA. “We are asking all of our members to meet or exceed this standard and if they can’t meet that, they cannot operate their sites.”

Frame said the document’s legal authority comes from a phrase in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that requires employers to do what is reasonably required to maintain a healthy and safe site.

“Under these circumstances, what is in the standard is deemed reasonable action that a construction employer must take to be within the law,” he said.

Topics covered include providing better on-site sanitation, including a focus on high-touch areas like site trailers, door handles and hoists; communicating roles, responsibilities and health and safety policies for such tasks as posting site sanitization schedules and work schedules; enabling greater distances between workers by staggering shifts, restricting site numbers and limiting elevator usage; and tracking and monitoring workers.

The ministry statement indicated, “Ministry inspectors are inspecting job sites today and every day. Employers and constructors should know: failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations could result in a stop work order.”

Frame said the Labour Management Committee realized two weeks ago that there needed to be a new and higher jobsite standard to deal with the spread of the virus. The committee drew new guidelines up and submitted them to the ministry and since then it been waiting for their official release as the outcry in the sector about unsafe working conditions has grown.

“This standard was finally released to our great relief yesterday so we are pushing it out like crazy,” Frame said.

The new CPO standard is found on the ministry website here:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/construction-site-health-and-safety-during-covid-19

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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