Training reduces worksite injuries
By Adam FreillConstruction Health & Safety
Study shows worker injuries due to falls from heights declined after Ontario made training standardized and mandatory.
Among recent organized efforts to make jobsites safer, working-at-heights training has been effective, reports an Institute for Work & Health (IWH) study. In the three-year period after Ontario made working-at-heights training in the construction sector standardized and mandatory, study authors explain that the rate of fall-from-height injuries leading to time off work fell by 19 per cent.
According to the IWH research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, the decline was larger than that seen in other Canadian provinces, where a six per cent decline was observed. It also stood in contrast to a 12 per cent rise of injuries in Ontario due to falls not targeted by the training, such as falls on stairs and falls at level. Other types of acute traumatic work-related injuries in the province saw no change.
The study compared lost-time injury rates between the three-year period before the training standard was first implemented (2012-14) and the three-year period after it came into full effect (2017-19).
“Although a 19 per cent drop may seem modest, previous research tells us that a reduction of this size would be considered typical of a well-planned training program,” stated IWH scientist Lynda Robson, who led the study, which was a follow-up to one published in 2019. “In our analysis, this reduction in injury rates amounts to four deaths and 320 lost-time injuries avoided during the three-year period after the change went into effect.”
The new study also followed up with a sample of 600 construction workers who took working-at-heights training in 2017 and found they continued to maintain fall protection practices two years after.
“In the first study, we first looked at the practices of construction workers four weeks after taking the mandatory training in 2017. We found meaningful improvements in fall prevention knowledge and practices after the training,” explained Robson. “Two years later, among the 300 workers who took the follow-up survey, those improvements in safety practices had not slipped or eroded even though knowledge had.”
Construction is one of the most hazardous sectors in the Canadian economy, and the leading cause of traumatic deaths. A major cause of traumatic injuries in the sector is falls from heights. In 2017, the province of Ontario implemented mandatory working-at-heights training in response to a review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system following the December 2009 swing-stage collapse that resulted in four migrant workers falling to their deaths.