Working at Heights – Train and educate workers to the new standards

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safety story
Worker (30s) with work gloves, hard hat, safety glasses, putting on harness.

Improving occupational health and safety is part of the Ontario government’s economic plan

By Monica Szabo
Special to Ontario Construction Report

This year there will be changes and updates to standardization and training required across the board in various areas. An important supporting factor in all of this is ensuring Ontario workers are trained and provided with current access to information, education and course options. The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) is working to provide current training and education options on what some of these changes to regulation and standardization involve and how they impact municipal operations.

worker wearing blue coveralls and a fall protection harness and lanyard for work at heights
worker wearing blue coveralls and a fall protection harness and lanyard for work at heights

Working at Heights – What’s changed?
As of April 1, 2015, employers must ensure that certain workers complete a working at heights training program that has been approved by the Chief Prevention Officer. Only an approved training provider can training for those workers that work under the construction regulations.

How do you know if you require training under the new standard?
The training requirement is for workers on construction projects who use any of these methods of fall protection:

  • travel restraint systems
  • fall restricting systems
  • fall arrest systems
  • safety nets
  • work belts or safety belts

It is important to determine if you are working on a construction project or if your activity is maintenance in which case this new requirement does not apply. It is best practice, however, for municipalities to provide the highest quality of training which the new standard ensures. An assessment of your work task is necessary to determine legislative requirements.

When do I need to complete this new training?
There is a two year transition period for workers who, prior to April 1, 2015, met the fall protection training requirements set out in subsection 26.2(1) of the Construction Projects Regulation. These workers will have until April 1, 2017 to complete an approved working at heights training program.

This training requirement is in the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation, and is in addition to training requirements under the Construction Regulation.

Why a new standard?
The purpose of a working at heights training standard is to:

a) Strengthen workplace safety culture by elevating the profile and importance of preventing falls;
b) Provide workers who may be exposed to the hazard of falling from heights with adequate knowledge about fall hazards and general safety practices;
c) Provide workers who use personal fall protection equipment with sufficient knowledge about its purpose and use;
d) Reduce fall-from-heights injuries and fatalities.

The Working at Heights Training Program Standard is presented in a modular format. This allows for core theory training to be completed separately from the practical training elements. There are two modules that need to be completed. Working at Heights Basic Theory can be delivered in class or by e-learning and must be three hours long. The second module is Working at Heights Practical Equipment that requires hands on training with equipment and must be 3.5 hours long.

For information on the new working at heights training standard and to pre-register for training from the PSHSA, visit http://www.pshsa.ca/working-at-heights-sign-up. You can also email us at workingatheights@pshsa.ca.

Monica Szabo is the PSHSA’s executive director, government, municipal and public safety.

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