March 9, 2012

Ontario needs safety champions: labour minister

Safety champions are needed to change the mentality on construction sites, says the province’s Minister of Labour.

Minister of Labour Linda Jeffrey said it cannot just be government enforcement blitzes promoting safety, the changes have to happen on site.

“We need people to be thinking about this ahead of time, going in, understanding the risks and coming home safely at the end of the day,” she said at a conference announcing a March safety blitz on the five most hazardous construction trades.

The trades targeted are highrise formwork, low-rise formwork and masonry, siding and built-up roofing work. The inspectors will continue their “zero tolerance” approach to breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis of the Ontario Labour ministry speaks at a press conference announcing an inspection blitz targeting the five most hazardous construction trades at an Amacon Construction Ltd. site, Parkside Village Condos, near Square One in Mississauga, Ontario, west of Toronto.

KELLY LAPOINTE

Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis speaks at a press conference announcing a labour ministry blitz targeting the five most hazardous construction trades.

“Safety is imperative; know the risks and how to avoid them. Employers, make sure your workers are properly equipped and properly trained. And workers, watch out for yourselves and watch out for your colleagues,” said Jeffrey at Amacon Construction Ltd. site, Parkside Village Condos, in Mississauga, Ont.

Workers in these trades are exposed to: unsafe use of equipment such as ladders, platforms and scaffolds; slips, trips and falls; and inadequate education, training and supervision of workers.

The lost-time injury rate of these five trades ranges from almost double to four times higher than injury rates for the construction industry in general.

Ontario’s first Chief Prevention Officer, George Gritziotis, said prevention is imperative — he wants to anticipate the future to better target his strategy.

“We don’t want to be in a position that we’re reacting to yesterday, we want to be able to anticipate what’s going to happen,” he said, adding that it’s going to take working closely with industry and government.

“(It’s about) being better to understand what the future is going to look like and how you can better align prevention activities.”

Gritziotis said health and safety has to be talked about and innovated upon at every level.

“I want our province to have the safest workplaces in the world. I want to make sure that we have everybody involved and all stakeholders involved and that’s how we’re going to build capacity and this environment.”

Frank Dasilva vice-president of development and construction at Amacon Construction Ltd, Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis, Minister of Labour Linda Jeffrey and Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla pose with construction workers after a recent provincial labour ministry announcement. In a new inspection blitz enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors are targetting five hazardous construction trades. The blitz was announced at an Amacon Construction site, Parkside Village Condos, near Square One in Mississauga, Ontario, west of Toronto.

KELLY LAPOINTE

Frank Dasilva vice-president of development and construction at Amacon Construction Ltd, Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis, Minister of Labour Linda Jeffrey and Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla pose with construction workers after a recent provincial labour ministry announcement.

Gritziotis began his post last October and he said there has been success in building relationships and discussions with the community and internally putting structures in place to roll out the changes.

He said they’re at the beginning of the most significant changes to the occupational health and safety system since the Act was came into effect in 1979.

His plan includes: reporting annually to the Minister of Labour on the performance of Ontario’s health and safety system; aligning prevention activity among all workplace health and safety system partners; advising the Minister on preventing injuries and illnesses; proposing changes for delivery and prevention services; and establishing effective delivery of the services.

Frank Dasilva vice-president of development and construction at Amacon Construction Ltd., Parkside Village developer and general contractor, said safety is a law in their company.

“If everybody did their little bit, we wouldn’t need these blitzes. It’s up to you; we can only provide the tools, the knowledge, and the posters. Enforce it. You’re going to want to stay safe, not us,” he said.

Mississauga will be a place of major development over the next 10 to 15 years and Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla said it’s important to have these safety blitzes.

“It’s the little details of safety that we tend to forget or take our chances with and I think this is about reminding people that no, we can’t do that,” she said.

“Nothing would please me more than to be able to say at the end of those 15 years that there wasn’t a single injury in that construction.”

On March 1, Ministry of Labour inspectors began visiting construction projects employing workers in the five targeted trades. Since 2010, six workers died and 159 workers were seriously injured in the five targeted trades as a result of falls.

Since 2008, inspectors have conducted more than 266,000 field visits, 36 inspection blitzes and issued more than 426,000 compliance orders.

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