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Industry leaders share opinions, tips on how to make jobsites safer

Angela Gismondi
Industry leaders share opinions, tips on how to make jobsites safer
ANGELA GISMONDI — Leaders in the construction industry spoke about safety during a panel discussion at the Ontario General Contractors Association’s Leadership Day and COR Open House held recently in Mississauga, Ont. The panel included (from left) Lynda Robson, a researcher with the Institute for Work and Health; Frank Perricone of Percon Construction; Craig Lesurf of Walsh Canada; Ron Kelusky, Ontario’s chief prevention officer; and George Bell of Metrolinx.

Stressing the need to properly wear personal protective equipment, analyzing the root cause of incidents and making near misses a focal point of lessons going forward were just some of the topics touched on during a panel discussion at the recent Leadership Conference and COR Open House hosted by the Ontario General Contractors Association in Mississauga, Ont.

Lynda Robson, a researcher at the Institute for Work and Health and one of the speakers at the conference, was asked where some of the gaps exist with the working-at-heights training initiative. Robson’s presentation focused on a recently completed evaluation of the standards, which were implemented by the Ontario government.

“I am struck by the analysis of the fatalities that the Ministry of Labour recently released, in that it draws our attention to small companies, roofing and ladders,” explained Robson. “I think that’s where we want to direct our attention. The training initiative is really good at moving everybody upwards in terms of knowledge and safety practices for a broad population approach and now we want to delve down to where the serious risk is and potential harm that still exists.”

Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer Ron Kelusky agreed data is key.

“One of the areas we looked at when we did the falls analysis were the common causes and not wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) or not wearing it properly. Understanding site hazards are some of the most important things,” he said.

“For years and years, reliance has always been on WSIB data and while good, it is for a different purpose than looking at the circumstances surrounding things. What we’re trying to do is access data from all points — the WSIB, health inspector data, coroners data and the data from other industries to build information. That fatality report that we brought out in January was the first time that we sent out something as comprehensive as that and the reason for that is if you don’t know what’s happening you can’t fix it.”

George Bell, vice-president of safety and security for Metrolinx, said the organization is becoming much more data driven.

 

No one deserves to work beside somebody that is impaired

— Craig Lesurf

Ontario General Contractors Association

 

“We need to see root cause investigations, we need to see those detailed breakdowns of why we are having incidents, what the incidents are, what the affects are,” said Bell. “Near misses are going to be a huge focal point for us.

“What we want to do is incent people to report near misses. We also need to analyze in greater detail the areas where people aren’t doing things right. Fall protection is a great example. We need to train people on fall protection but we need to train them to work in a way that doesn’t require relying on fall protection.”

Frank Perricone, president of Percon Construction, said it’s about safety culture, especially in small and medium-sized companies.

“There is no doubt about it, the training component is happening, people are educated in it but it’s that culture in the company and it starts at the top,” said Perricone.

“You don’t put that (fall arrest equipment) on and all of the sudden it’s going to save your life. You have to put it on, you have to know how to put it on and you have to tie yourself off properly then that will save your life. When I’m out there, I see some employees that think we are doing this as owners to save ourselves and I keep telling them ‘no, we’re doing it to save you.’ ”

Craig Lesurf, chair of the OGCA’s safety committee and vice-president and business group leader at Walsh Canada, said there has been a lot of talk about impairment on jobsites lately. He pointed out fatigue and mental stress are forms of impairment.

“Impairment is impairment,” Lesurf noted, adding he has a zero-tolerance policy for impairment on the jobsite.

“It can be from cannabis, from alcohol, from working too much. It can be because your dad died yesterday. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re tired get off the job, if you’re high get off the job, if you have some mental anguish get off the job. No one deserves to work beside somebody that is impaired.”

Another audience member asked Bell about an initiative that Metrolinx will be undertaking to ensure safety is built into the design and procurement stage. Metrolinx will soon require contractors to illustrate how to implement the hierarchy of controls for safety in bid submissions.

The audience member asked if Metrolinx would consider outlining the standards they expect from contractors in the design stage to provide a level playing field for all those bidding on the project.

“What we have traditionally done is bolted safety on at the end and it doesn’t work, so we need to consider safety from the get go and make sure we design projects with safety and have a number of controls built in. But there is another way to do it as well on top of that,” explained Bell.

“What we are moving towards in more of our procurements are output specifications. What we want to do is go to the industry and say, ‘we want you to design a system that has zero or low fall probability’ because if we come back and we say, on this project you will need to use scaffolding under these circumstances, we are inhibiting your innovation.”

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