Ontario launches construction site blitz

Inspectors will check for hazards involving suspended platforms

Beginning mid-January, Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors will begin an enforcement blitz checking for hazards involving suspended platforms and fall hazards at construction sites.

"We want to ensure that Ontarians are safe at their workplace and these actions we're taking serve as a reminder that safety practices must be followed when working above the ground. I have asked for a report back in 90 days, at which time decisions will be made on what further steps will be taken," said Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca.

As part of regular inspections, Ministry of Labour inspectors will look for compliance with fall protection requirements, including appropriate fall-related equipment and adequate worker training.

Inspectors will have zero tolerance for non-compliance, said Fonseca.

The most commonly used suspended work platforms (suspended platforms or suspended scaffolds) are known as swing stages. They are used for window cleaning or conducting repairs to the exterior of buildings and consist of a work platform, guardrails and a suspension system.

The most significant hazard associated with swing stages is workers falling from height. Some of the reasons why a fall may occur include:

• the swing stage over-turning because the counterweight does not have the adequate weight or if the “fulcrum” or point of support at the edge of the building fails; or

• the swing stage collapsing because it is overloaded, the platforms are inadequately attached (in case of modular type stages), or there is damage from exposure to chemicals or corrosive material to the motors, platforms or wire ropes to which the stage is suspended, in addition to poor maintenance.

Employers and supervisors are required to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of workers, including:

Proper training

Workers working on a suspended platform or suspended scaffold who may use a fall protection system must receive comprehensive fall protection training and must receive:

• training on the use and inspection of the platform or scaffold, including access to and egress from it

• training on the erection and dismantling procedures where the workers are involved in these activities

Wearing of a fall arrest system when working on suspended equipment

A worker who is on or is getting on or off a suspended platform or suspended scaffold must wear a full body harness that is connected to a fall arrest system with an independent lifeline, or that is securely fastened to the suspended platform or suspended scaffold.

Proper design, construction and use of equipment

The platform must not be overloaded, equipment must be maintained in a condition that does not endanger a worker and it must be used in accordance with any operating manual issued by the manufacturers.

Every suspended scaffold that consists of more than one platform, and every suspended platform that weighs, together with its components, more than 525 kilograms, must be designed by a professional engineer and erected in accordance with the design drawings. A professional engineer must inspect it prior to its first use and issue a written report in regard to the inspection. The constructor must keep a copy of the design drawings and the professional engineer’s written inspection report on the project while the suspended platform or suspended scaffold is on the project.

Adequate maintenance of equipment, materials and protective devices

Employers must ensure that the equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition.

Proper inspection of equipment by a competent worker and by the supervisor

Suspended platforms or suspended scaffolds must be inspected prior to each day’s use by a competent worker if it is operated by mechanical power and at least once a week by the supervisor or a competent person appointed by the supervisor.

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