Canadian Contractor

Robert Koci   

The "Safety and Compliance" Seminar – Part 3

Canadian Contractor risk

In Part 3 of our five-part series (which we'll publish over the next two months), you"ll learn the benefits of beginning every job with an assessment.

Over the next few weeks you’ll learn the top five ways to be safe and compliant in your workplace.

Part 3: Create a Safe Job Site

By Brynna Leslie

The Canadian Labour Code stipulates minimum safety requirements for employers across the country, regardless of the sector they work in or the nature of their work. It’s within the Labour Code’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations that you’ll discover specific laws around elevation and temporary structures, such as how to use a ladder (i.e. an employee has to use one if he or she is 450 millimetres off the ground); proper ventilation and lighting; procedures on how to avoid slip and fall incidents, etc.


While provinces vary in how much of this has to be deduced up front, in Alberta it’s mandatory under the law that every employer conduct a formal hazard assessment of the job site before work begins. This requires the contractor to thoroughly think the project through from beginning to end — examining and recording potential trip and fall hazards, height restrictions, identifying times during the project where the work of trades may conflict or cause risk to others and putting in place all necessary measures to ensure those risks are accounted for and mitigated.

“Very often, if there’s an incident, one of the first things our officers will look for during an investigation is a record of the hazard assessment,” says Barrie Harrison, spokesperson for Alberta Occupational Health and Safety. “If no hazard assessment was conducted, it can go a long way toward potential charges and eventual fines for the employer, which may have otherwise been completely unnecessary.”

Not all provinces and territories legally require employers to conduct a hazard assessment, but having a pre-assessment filed away can protect you – the employer — in the long run.

“Our law is not as formalized as Alberta, but there is an underlying indication that it’s part of an employer’s due diligence to make sure he has properly assessed a situation and that controls have been put in place to prevent injury,” explains Don Schouten, Construction Manager at WorkSafeBC.

Employers who have demonstrated this due diligence are much better protected if there’s an infraction and subsequent investigation.

For example, in the case where an employee has been provided with fall protection equipment and training, and has chosen not to use it, the employee – not the diligent employer — may be the one who is fined or ordered to stop work as a result.


Next week… Part 4: Have the Right People and Training for the Job


Brynna Leslie is a freelance writer based in Ottawa and a regular contributor to Canadian Contractor.


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