Making Room for Change – Municipal Network Industry Perspectives from PSHSA on WHMIS and new Working at Heights Standardization
Improving occupational Health and Safety is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. Focus is on investing in people’s talents and skills and providing healthy and safe work environments.
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.
This year there will be changes and updates to standardization and training required across the board in various areas. Public Services Health and Safety are working hard to provide current training and education options on what some of these changes to regulation and standardization involve and how they impact municipal operations. Here are a few of the updates on the horizon with resources to help employers and workers stay updated throughout 2015.
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 deliver working at heights 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 the following methods of fall protection:ring the transition of care process about:
- 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 you 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. A proper assessment of your work task is necessary to determine your 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 program that meets the requirements in the new Working at Heights training standard is to:
- Strengthen workplace safety culture by elevating the profile and importance of preventing falls from heights;
- Provide workers who may be exposed to the hazard of falling from heights with adequate knowledge about fall hazards and general safety practices to work safely at heights;
- Provide workers who use personal fall protection equipment with sufficient knowledge about its purpose and use; and
Reduce the number of fall-from-heights incidents, 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 dlevered in class or by e-learning and must be 3 hours long. The second module is Working at Heights Practical Equipment that required hands on training with equipment and must be 3.5 hours long.
Does this apply to Building Officials and Building Inspectors?
You will be required to determine if the operations you are involved in are considered covered under the construction regulations or industrial regulation. Generally, maintenance work is covered under the industrial regulation although for example painting can be considered construction work depending on the extent of the work. It is important to note that training is still required for those workers working at heights that are covered under the industrial regulation.
The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an internationally consistent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information through labels and safety data sheets. The implementation of GHS will mean that all workplaces will have consistent hazard information. The intent of GHS is to help facilitate trade by eliminating multiple classification systems as well as enhance protection of human health by using standard messaging.
The four cornerstones of WHMIS – 1988 were Classification, Training, Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). WHMIS – 2015 is based on these same four building blocks and will provide improved protection for workers when handling hazardous material. Overall the current roles and responsibilities set out in WHMIS that apply to suppliers, employers and workers will remain the same. While some elements and symbols may be retained, there are changes to be aware of which are summarized below.
How does WHMIS 2015 (GHS) apply to Building Officials and Building Inspectors?
WHMIS training is an important element in understanding and taking steps to protect workers from hazardous materials on construction and project sites. Although you may not be directly working with hazardous materials there is inevitably unknown products you may encounter while working at a construction site and you need to be able to prepare ahead of time to protect yourself such as bring appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). Training on reading SDS (safety data sheet) will provide important information to protect yourself such as PPE that must be worn to keep you healthy and safe while on-site carrying out your work and recognizing hazardous products like flammable or compressed gases (e.g. Propane) that are being used.
For more information on the new working at heights training standard and WHMIS 2015 visit
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/faqs/wah.php and http://whmis.org/ or connect with your PSHSA consultant at www.pshsa.ca.