There are some individual home builders who should be forced to “walk the plank,” essentially testing the safety conditions on their own job sites.
A few weeks ago, I knew exactly where the plank should be placed for one particular builder I went to see — at the end of a job site walkway that ended suddenly with a 20-foot drop into an open excavation.
Anyone who “walked the plank” that day would land on the heads of two workers working underneath. Why? There were no barriers or warning signs at the end of the walkway.
Can you imagine the two workers in the hole, oblivious to the situation, having people fall on them from above? Not to mention the unsupported walls surrounding them that could cave in.
After failing to find a site supervisor, I left the job site feeling troubled. I approached one of the workers, explained the danger of the excavation, suggested he take a photo, send it to his boss and get directions on proceeding safely That’s when one of his colleagues stepped up to announce that he was, in fact, the site supervisor. He held his phone to his ear, talking with the builder. I repeatedly asked to speak to the builder on the phone, but I was denied the opportunity.
A few days later, on September 17, the chief prevention officer from the Ontario Ministry of Labour put out a call to action:
“I am extremely distressed by the number of workplace fatalities related to falls. Since June 2013, nine workers have died.”
“Preventing these injuries and fatalities requires workplace partnerships to support awareness and education programs and appropriate enforcement.”
Part of my job with CARAHS is to visit residential building and renovations job sites daily to deliver that awareness and support employers who sometimes can’t keep up with current laws or regulations. Continually, I see misinformation penetrating downward to business owners. But the full weight of the law can come crashing down on all employers found guilty of contravening the occupational health and safety act. With fines of up to $500,000 — and the possibility of up to 12 months in jail — this is a serious matter.
It would have taken just a few minutes for me to speak to that builder on the phone. I could have helped him provide a safer workplace to his workers, reducing his liability keeping the fatality count to a minimum.
CARAHS is a non profit association for renovators and home services providers. We offer education, information and benefits.
CARAHS offers over 70 Health and Safety e-courses online here.
Toll free 1-866-366-2930 www.carahs.org