B.C. inspectors cracking down hard
Inspectors from WorkSafeBC, the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia, are currently hammering down on roofers and framers on wood frame construction sites who flout the province’s safety regulations. A six month inspection blitz that runs until November has so far imposed approximately $50,000 a month in fines on small residential construction companies and their workers, in some cases shutting down job sites until they come into compliance.
WorkSafeBC regional director Al Johnson says workers who fail to comply have no excuses. “A number of them are up on the rooftop without any fall protection. They know they should be tied off and yet their fall protection is either in their truck or sitting in the ground by their lunchbox.”
Johnson says practices like these have resulted in more than 1,000 injury claims and $25.6 million in compensation over the past four years. But he’s not putting all of the responsibility for this on the workers themselves. His inspectors are also eyeballing contracting firms to make sure their project plans have incorporated fall protection and other safety plans.
“The worker needs to be following that plan, but just as importantly the supervisor needs to make sure they are following that. It’s a shared responsibility between the employer, the supervisor and the worker.”
Johnson says reaction to the inspection blitz so far has been mixed. Many builders are very small operations “that can start up a business today and start working on a roof tomorrow,” he says. Some companies and workers may not be aware they are in non-compliance or even know that they must be registered with WorkSafeBC in order to operate.
“So often our officers will pull everybody off the roof, tell them how to get registered with us and they can’t go to work again until they’re registered. We’re applying the same regulation and rigor to anybody we see on a rooftop.”
Inspectors will be working evenings and on weekends to make sure workers and their employers get the message. None of this, Johnson adds, is being done vindictively. “We just want workers up on the rooftop to be following the regulations. We want them to be safe.”
– David Godkin