In the last 50 years, rules regarding worker safety have expanded to include not just the work environment and performance of the job, but also the mandatory use of safety equipment. The evolution of workplace safety has often been the result of workplace incidents resulting in serious injuries and death. One response has been to change existing standards or add new standards to address the root causes of these incidents and hopefully reduce or eliminate them.

Alongside the introduction of workplace safety standards has been the introduction of safety equipment and standards related to that safety equipment.  The construction sector has some of the most rigorous requirements for occupational health and safety due to the inherent risk associated with many of the roles.

"In the last 50 years, rules regarding worker safety have expanded to include not just the work environment and performance of the job, but also the mandatory use of safety equipment."

On a construction site, it is the responsibility of the constructor to ensure the health and safety of all workers. When it comes to construction, in many cases the owner of a home undertaking a project can be defined as a “constructor” under labour laws. Before undertaking a construction project, large or small, homeowner or developer, making sure you have a clear understanding of your obligations under the law is vital.

For organizations in particular, having a comprehensive training program in place is an excellent way to keep on top of workplace safety and encourage a culture that promotes and encourages the adoption of safe practices every day.

Training programs

There are many training programs offered across Canada that provide guidance; for workplace safety and responsibility of managers, the maintenance and safety of equipment, the inspection of equipment and injury prevention, to name a few.  These training programs help workers understand: how to implement best practices, the selection and use of safer products to help prevent injuries, the proper use of equipment and how to comply with legislation and regulations. It is important for employers to keep on top of changes to occupational health and safety standards and regulatory requirements and make sure that training and maintenance is ongoing.

Equipment

Another important component of workplace safety within the construction industry is the use of personal protective equipment. This equipment is intended to help protect workers from hazards within the workplace. Some equipment such as safety goggles, hardhats and work boots, is easily recognized while other protective equipment may not be as visible, but it still plays a significant part in protecting workers.

For much of this equipment, voluntary standards exist that cover the design, construction, selection, care, use and testing. Many of these products can be tested and certified to help ensure that safety and performance requirements are met. When purchasing personal protective gear, look for a certification mark to indicate that the product has been tested to the appropriate standard.

Falling from heights

Within the construction industry, falls from heights are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and death.  Falls can occur from overhead platforms or elevated workstations, even into holes in the floor. When work situations involve the risk of falling, a fall protection system is a critical component of safety practices and procedures.

Fall protection equipment includes a broad range of devices such as body belts, body harnesses, connecting components and vertical lifelines. On a construction site it is mandatory for workers who have the potential of falling to have and to make use of the proper fall protection equipment.

Occupational health and safety within Canada has come a long way since the 1960’s and has become an accepted part of the workplace. In order to help keep safety top of mind and to keep progressing workplace safety, it must be a part of every day practices.