It has been reported that OHS Canada is seeking to implement more stringent working at height regulations which will include improvements to the delivery of mandatory working at height training. At present, refresher training is only required every three years and it has been recognized that this is insufficient for many candidates whose retention of lessons learned in their original training will have waned or been replaced by everyday working practices which may not reflect best practice. These changes are likely to be introduced as soon as April this year .
What Does This Have To Do With Confined Space in Toronto?
Approximately 100 people a year lose their lives to accidents or entrapment within confined spaces whilst falls from height accounted for 29 deaths last year . With those 29 deaths prompting significant changes to working at height safety regulations, it is prudent to analyze whether greater consideration will be given to tightening up the safety standards relating to workers who need to enter confined spaces.
At present, the laws regarding training for entry into a confined space, or to conduct necessary maintenance activities within a confined space are indistinct, placing the onus on the employer to ensure that their staff is competent .
Whilst there are a number of organizations that deliver confined space safety training in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada, there is no baseline credential or qualification that guarantees competence, nor is refresher training mandated.
This is clearly an unsatisfactory position for an industry that carries such significant risk and whereby worker death or injury can create a financial and reputational burden for an employer who has no baseline standard against which to assess worker competence.
It is clearly preferable that changes to health and safety legislation pertaining to confined space in Toronto training come as a result of industry lobbying the government rather than being mandated due to high-profile court cases, such as in the case of the falls from height regulation updates.
Industry organizations and employers should be encouraged to present a united case to their elected officials, acting in the best interests of workers within the industry . This should set out the dangers faced on a daily basis, not only by those nominated to enter and work within confined spaces but also by the industries and businesses who are facing the threat of court cases, and financial as well as reputational ruin every time they send an employee into a confined space with no guarantee of their level of competence.
It is important that facts are not overstated and that emotions are not allowed to run high. The case presented must be factual, concise and clearly state the desired outcome. That is, a baseline training standard against which worker competence can be assessed and regular, potentially annual, refresher training that ensures that staff maintains the necessary levels of competence to conduct their daily duties safely.
Given the pressure to tighten safety regulations to prevent falls from height, the opportunity is ripe to lobby the government also to tighten safety regulations to prevent confined space deaths.