A Call to Action: Fatalities from falls in Ontario Workplaces

All work-related fatalities are tragic and must be prevented. As Chief Prevention Officer for the Province of Ontario, I am extremely distressed by the number of workplace fatalities related to falls that have occurred recently. Since June, nine workers have died on the job as a result of falls.

What is even more disturbing is that falls are one of the most common workplace tragedies. These needless, intolerable tragedies must be stopped!

 Each and every one of us has a duty to do everything within our power to ensure that workers return home safe at the end of every workday. We must work together to ensure that health and safety hazards are eliminated from our workplaces and that employers, supervisors and workers comply with the law.

Preventing these injuries and fatalities requires workplace partnerships to support awareness and education programs, and appropriate enforcement. For the past few weeks and well into the fall, the Ministry of Labour has been undertaking initiatives to prevent tragedies of this kind:

o   A falls hazards blitz in the construction sector is being conducted throughout September and October 2013.

o   This month (September), a province-wide enforcement initiative is targeting hazards of sloped roofing at low-rise residential construction sites. This initiative began August 1.

o   Also underway this month is an after-hours pilot inspection project at construction sites across Ontario. This three-month initiative started in July.

We continue to work with the Prevention Council as they provide us with strategic advice and guidance on appropriate measures to prevent falls and other tragic incidents in all workplaces.

A critical foundational step to improve workplace safety is to invest in awareness and education about rights and responsibilities, and about best practices. Earlier this year, we consulted stakeholders about proposed regulations to make health and safety awareness training mandatory for workers and supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The ministry will announce new training requirements in the coming weeks.

We are developing a Working at Heights Training Program Standard, which emphasizes hands-on experience and knowledge while also reinforcing a health and safety culture when working at heights. A standard is being developed in collaboration with our workplace partners (labour and business) this fall.