Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell   

Caldwell: Construction safety when working for the government

Canadian Contractor

If you can flout safety rules while working on Parliament Hill, I guess you can flout them anywhere.

crane 2There is a ton of restoration work is going on around our national parliament buildings in Ottawa. It’s clear that some pretty big cheques are being written to the contractors.

As I emerged from the main block of parliament buildings on a recent visit to Ottawa, I noticed two men swinging high above me in a crane bucket. Turns out they were architects, doing an inspection of the work (see photo at left).

You will notice a man on the ground there. He’s the supervisor. He works for Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

I asked him if the men swinging above us we wearing safety harnesses.


“I’m not sure,” came the reply.

Finally, after straining my eyesight for a few minutes, I spotted their lanyards, tied off above them. What a relief. Still,  when these gents came down, I decided to ask them a couple of questions. My first was: Were they aware of any emergency rescue plan for the site (a requirement under the Ontario Health & Safety Act) if something went wrong? So I waited patiently, but then realized they were earning big government dollars and could hang there for days. For once my questions would go unanswered. hole

Wandering towards the Byward Market area close by, I discover a construction safety flaw. It was located right outside (on the roadway) of the the United States Embassy, where they were adding even more fortification. It was right at the pedestrian crossing into the Major Hill Park. Here was an unguarded open trench (see photo above) perfect for the public to fall into. There was no barrier closing it off, no warning or danger sign or even a government worker in sight. Guess its was lunch time and they were on a break.

Now I take a lot of flak for butting my nose into jobsites like this, asking questions that some people seem to think are none of my business. Too bad. Worker safety – and the safety of the public – must be protected at all times. Especially when we, the taxpayer, are footing the bill for the work in the first place.

CARAHS is a Ministry of Labour (Ontario) Approved Working at Heights Training Provider (Pro # 34609)

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