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Alarming number of workplace deaths leads to safety blitz


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September 19, 2013 by STAFF REPORT

Nine Ontario workplaces deaths since June has prompted the province’s Ministry of Labour to introduce a “fall safety blitz” during the months of September and October.

The blitz is taking aim at roofing awareness and fall hazards to ensure safety standards are being met in Ontario’s construction industry.

Ontario’s Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi said workplace safety is the ministry’s number one priority. “We are working hard to ensure that both employees and employers know their rights and are fulfilling their responsibilities.”

He said the focus is on workers’ safety at heights, and action will be taken against employers who aren’t properly training and protecting workers.

In addition to the fall safety blitz, the Ministry of Labour is currently leading two other safety initiatives: a campaign targeting hazards of sloped roofing at low-rise residential construction sites and an after-hours pilot inspection project at construction sites across Ontario. Both run until the end of September.

George Gritziotis, chief prevention officer, expressed his frustration with the spike in the numbers of fall-related deaths. “I am extremely distressed by the number of workplace fatalities related to falls that have occurred recently,” he said. “What is even more disturbing is that falls are one of the most common workplace tragedies.”

Gritziotis said preventing injuries and fatalities requires workplace partnerships to support awareness and education programs, as well as appropriate enforcement.

Education about rights, responsibilities and best practices is the first step towards improving workplace safety, he said.

There are many free resources available online regarding awareness training requirements and the ministry will be unveiling a “Working at Heights Training Program Standard” this fall, he added.

“We cannot achieve the goal of safe workplaces alone,” he said. “The recent workplace fatalities are a painful reminder to us that we—each and every one of us— must take direct, personal responsibility for prevention, regardless of where we work.”


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