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Construction Site Safety

Last modified: 2022-09-07 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

Working on a construction site has its fair share of risks, regardless of the nature of the work involved. Since worker safety is an ever-present concern, it requires the cooperation of quite a few players.

Under the Act respecting occupational health and safety, safety measures have been put in place to protect workers against situations that could threaten their health. In addition, there are several preventive measures to implement as well as specific guidelines to limit the number of injuries related to falls and structural collapses.

Construction Site Security Measures

Mandatory Safety Training

As outlined in the Safety Code for the construction industry (section 2.4.2.i), all construction site workers must complete a course on the General health and Safety on Construction Sites, which will result in ASP (Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail du secteur de la construction) certification.

Right to Refuse to Work

Any worker who perceives that performing any given task entails a threat to their health, physical integrity, or safety is entitled by law to refuse to perform said task. However, this right to refuse to work cannot be applied if it compromises the health, integrity, or safety of others. To exercise this right to refuse to work, the individual in question must notify their superior or their union representative who will independently assess the legitimacy of the refusal.

On-Duty Security Officer

Safety officers, whose sole role is to ensure the safety of workers, must be present on-site at all times if the contract is valued at over $8 million (with the exception of work on structures other than bridges, overpasses, or tunnels) or if the number of employees is at least 150. Under the guise of the project manager, the safety officer will plan, organize, and manage all activities designed to prevent accidents. They will also act as a point of reference for workers who seek advice and information.

Work Site Safety Measures 

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is a valuable source of information regarding measures to follow to minimize the risk of workplace injuries and accidents. Specifically, it suggests:

  • Inspecting the work site prior to starting work and keeping clutter to a minimum;
  • Inspecting all work materials and machinery;
  • Wearing work-appropriate clothing as well as protective footwear (i.e. steel-toed boots);
  • Avoiding positions that require sustained efforts;
  • Taking breaks at regular intervals;
  • Inquiring regarding precautionary measures in the event of extreme weather conditions (cold, wind, or rain);
  • Being aware of emergency procedures.

construction worker_Construction Site Safety

Photo: Flickr

To have comprehensive and detailed information on the necessary safety measures to uphold to limit work site accidents, refer to the Safety Code for the construction industry.

Slip and Fall Work Site Prevention

To avoid a serious fall, the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST - Commission on workplace standards, fairness, health and safety) recommends the following:

  • Guardrails are required for all work performed over three metres above the ground. Where this is not possible, workers must wear a harness.
  • When using a ladder, it must be securely affixed to the ground and stand on a stable surface. The top of the ladder must exceed the roof surface by at least 900 mm.
  • Avoid carrying equipment while climbing a ladder to ensure your hands are free at all times.

To allow workers to be safe from the time they step off the ground and to enable them to work more comfortably, using a platform lift may be preferable. The platform lift is ideal for masonry work, exterior siding installation, or guttering. It allows workers to reach higher ground than with a ladder and still have a stable work platform. However, to ensure the safe use of this device, do not overload the device and ensure workers are secured to the platform, if necessary.

Limiting Accidents Related to Collapsed Work Site Structures

To limit the risk of accidents resulting from a structural collapse, said structure must be anchored to fixed points. And, base plates and beams should be installed under each upright. The CNESST has a number of guidelines to ensure the safe use of scaffolding.

On another note, all excavations or trenches must be shored (i.e. supported by adjustable metal beams). Also, all materials need to be placed at least 1.20 metres from the edge of the trench or excavation site. Vehicles should not be parked or driven within three metres of the work area.

Furthermore, the beams must be inspected on a regular basis to prevent any damage to the scaffolding.

To prevent a structural cave-in, incomplete or temporary structures must be braced. More specifically, bracing consists of joining materials (beams) to stabilize a structure to prevent it from collapsing as a result of wind or adverse weather conditions. The National Building Code of Canada says that "Any framework shall be calculated, constructed, placed, supported, wind-braced or guyed to resist any load which could be imposed during construction or demolition.”

Amongst the many elements that absolutely must be braced, the CNESST specifically mentions:

  • Precast concrete beams;
  • Steel beams
  • Roof trusses;
  • Concrete block walls;
  • Scaffolding;
  • Concrete forms.

With regard to this last point, note that plans relating to formwork shoring and temporary structures on-site must be approved by an engineer before being implemented.

Joining a Prevention Mutual 

As clearly stated on the Corporation des Entrepreneurs Spécialisés du Grand Montréal Inc. website, a prevention mutual is “A group of business owners who are committed to the prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration of workers who have sustained a work-related injury.”

Note that joining a prevention mutual group is entirely voluntary and no particular relationship is needed between the employers. However, the CESGM does specify three eligibility criteria for joining a prevention mutual group. First, one must be an employer under the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (AIAOD). Thus, a self-employed person or a company with no employees cannot join a mutual group.

Second, you are required to be in good standing with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). This means that all requirements related to the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases and those related to the Act respecting occupational health and safety are met.

As stipulated by the CNESST, employers must put in place a prevention program in line with the Act respecting occupational health and safety, and that by April 1st of that year, which will be updated and come into effect on January 1st. The employer is also responsible for implementing suitable conditions for the safe return of injured workers. Note that employers covered at unit or personalized rates are eligible to join a prevention mutual group.

Cover photo: Pixabay

French article by: Karine Dutemple

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