Protecting Workers In Ontario's Most Dangerous Industries
Insight In recent years, experts within the mining, forestry and construction industries have been working hard to improve safety and reduce incidents and injuries, the results have been very positive.
The most common injuries in forestry are not the most serious and usually involve a sprain or strain that someone can recover from in a couple of weeks. But, because of the heavy-duty equipment that’s used, when the more serious incidents do occur they can have tragic consequences, resulting in a sustained absence of leave or in the worst-case scenario, fatality.
The industry has tackled these dangers head-on by implementing operator certification guidelines that are overseen by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. It is now a legal requirement that every worker is fully trained and licensed on each piece of mechanical harvesting equipment before going out to work.
The introduction of a voluntary program called Safe Workplace Ontario is also helping reduce serious injuries. Consisting of 22 safety standards specific to forestry, the program performs annual audits on the companies that have opted in to ensure that they’re meeting safety requirements.
Although safety results are improving, nobody in the industry is prepared to take their eye off the ball. “There have been less injuries in recent years, definitely a downward trend,” says Chris Serratore, a Forestry Consultant at Workplace Safety North. “However, there has to be an extended focus on training new operators, we have to ensure that everyone meets the highest standards.”
Some of the dangerous incidents that occur in mines are due to falls of rock, while others can be connected to pedestrian equipment visibility. Due to the seriousness of these hazards and the injuries that they can cause, it’s imperative that every operator and pedestrian is trained to exacting standards before entering a mine. It’s an industry where nothing is taken for granted, especially safety.
“The most important thing to come out of a mine are the men and women that work there,” says Dwayne Plamondon, Director of Mining at Workplace Safety North.
Mining relies on the diligence and accountability of every single employee. This is reflected in the industry’s Internal Responsibility System (IRS), in which every person within an organization has a direct responsibility for health and safety. The extent of each person’s responsibility is based on their level of authority in the workplace, and experts see the IRS as the key to preventing incidents.
If the IRS makes up the framework for preventing incidents, the Neil George Five Point Safety System acts as the practical tool that enables every shift worked in the mine to be completed safely. Introduced by George in 1942, the step-by-step guide to eradicating danger is seen as one of the most important tools in mining safety and is still followed by the industry to this day. It reads:
▣ 1. Check the entrance to the place of work.
▣ 2. Is the working place and equipment in good order?
▣ 3. Are people working properly?
▣ 4. Perform an act of safety to build safety consciousness.
▣ 5. Can, and will, people continue to work properly?
“The most important thing to come out of a mine are the men and women that work there.”
In large construction projects, every hazard is a major one. The most common, and most dangerous, is falls from heights, a safety issue that the construction industry has been challenged with for decades. To combat these dangers, the Ontario government funds organizations like the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), which works to identify risks in construction and then develops programs and controls that help to improve safety.
Two years ago the IHSA adopted the Certificate of Recognition (COR) program, a management safety audit system. Companies that participate have to demonstrate, through a review of documentation, on site observation and interviews with staff, that they are managing an effective health and safety program.
COR is also used as a pre-qualification tool, so instead of governments and regulatory bodies trying to enforce health and safety standards, buyers, users and contractors are able to influence the safety of work on their sites by insisting that companies they employ be COR certified.
Started in Alberta 20 years ago, COR has had a significant impact in high-risk industries, like construction. Since it was introduced in Ontario 360 employers have registered with the program and 65 are fully certified. Major construction buyers Infrastructure Ontario, TTC and Metrolinx are moving towards policies that state they’ll only do business with COR certified employers.
“There has been a significant reduction in workplace incidents over the past ten to 12 years,” says Paul Casey, VP of Programs and Strategic Development at IHSA. “And a lot of that is driven by industry safety programs like COR.”