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BC municipalities will not perform required construction inspections if worksite unsafe.

under construction

Warning!

The City of Penticton has recently issued a bulletin outlining the field inspection safety requirements (Bylaw 2012-03 Created: March 28, 2012).  The purpose of the bulletin is to provide an outline for the minimum site safety standards that are to be provided by the owner or contractor and to when a site inspection can be refused by the Building Official for unsafe conditions.

There have been many occasions where occupational safety has been compromised for Building Officials performing on-site reviews.  Hazards such as deep excavations, messy work areas, open pits or stairways with no railings have led to potential safety hazards for City staff.   There also have been instances where City staff have been exposed to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, excessive dust or unsafe use of equipment.

Owners and Contractors are mandated by the Worker’s Compensation Act and the BC Building Code to protect the safety of all workers on site as well as the general public.  Building inspectors, city workers, utility workers as well as subcontractors are included in site safety requirements.  All people are entitled to a safe worksite.

If a potential hazard exists, the Building Official shall either request that the activity or situation be corrected immediately to perform the review or refuse to perform inspections until such a time that it can be shown it is safe to perform duties.

Some examples are:

  • The job site is messy and has tripping hazards, poorly lit, unsecured stored material, exposed vertical rebar and high levels of dust.
  • Excavations over 1.2m in depth and not back-sloped, shored or reviewed by a geotechnical engineer.
  • Improper construction of stairs/guards, ramps or platforms.
  • Openings in floors or roofs that are not secured/marked or protected by guards.
  • Unsafe storage of flammable liquids or use of machinery.
  • Exposed live electrical
  • Overhead work such as roofing
  • Renovation or demolition work that could potentially expose Building Officials to Hazardous Materials.  A hazard assessment and abatement may be required before a Building Official will enter the building.

Municipalities are striving to improve safety on construction sites in order to protect city workers, the public and all workers on construction sites.  Contractors and owners will not be able to obtain required building  inspections unless they demonstrate that they are meeting minimum site safety standards.

 
Posted on: March 31st, 2012 by Victoria Comments

Prime Contractor Responsibilites: How WorksafeBC report can cite Gordon Campbell in the death of a worker

Law confusing for former premier

In today’s construction industry, definitions can become very confusing.  Construction contracts can refer to a company as the construction manager, the general contractor, or the project manager.  Contracts are customized to the project needs; however, a construction contract needs to clearly identify who is responsible for worksite safety. 

I. Key Definitions according to the Worker’s Compensation Act

Employer: Any person who has one or more persons working for them in or about an industry, through either a hiring contract or an apprenticeship contract.  The contract can be written or oral, express or implied.

Worker: A worker includes any person who is in contract of service or apprenticeship written or oral, express or implied.  Any learner who although not under contract of service or apprenticeship becomes subject to the hazards of industry while undergoing training or probationary work specified or stipulated by the employer as a preliminary to employment.

Prime Contractor: WCA Part 3 Division 3: General Duties of Employers, workers and others.

1) A prime contractor means the prime contractor for a multiple-employer workplace.  A multiple employer workplace means a workplace where workers of 2 or more employers are working at the same time.

A prime contractor of a multiple-employer workplace is the directing contractor, employer or other person who enters into a written agreement with the owner of that workplace to be the prime contractor for the purposes of safety responsibilities.

If there is no written agreement to assume responsibility for workplace safety, the owner of the workplace is deemed to be the prime contractor.

Owner:

 a) A trustee, receiver, mortagee in possession, tenant, someone who leases, licensee or occupier of any lands or premises used or to be used as a workplace.

b) a person who acts for or on behalf of an owner as an agent or delegate.

II. Important Notes from the Worker’s Compensation Act

Part 3 Division 1: Section 96: Jurisdiction of the Board

The Board has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a person is a worker, a subcontractor, a contractor or employer (as per definitions above). 

The prime contractor of a multiple-employer workplace must

a) ensure that the activities of employers, workers and other persons at the workplace relating to occupational health and safety are coordinated and

b) do everything that is reasonably practicable to establish and maintain a system or process that will ensure compliance with the WCA and the regulations in respect to the workplace.

Every employer of workers at a multiple-employer workplace must give to the prime contractor the name of the person the employer has designated to supervise the employer’s workers at that workplace.

Note: WSBC is a no-fault compensation insurance.  Workers will always be entitled to compensation, even if not covered by WSBC premiums.

However, the board will determine whether an employer is responsible to pay the WSBC premiums for workers on the job site.

 III. What does this mean for contractors and for homeowners?

1. Contracts are critical.  If you are the builder, the developer, the client, the subcontractor or the worker, it must be very clear in your mind who is responsible for site safety.  This can’t be a guessing game.  Ultimately, it is the board’s decision if there is an incident on site.  The best advice is to protect yourself by having clear contract language that identifies the roles and responsibilities for each party.

2. If you do not have a clear written contract that transfers responsibility for safety, the home owner or property owner can be deemed liable. 

Example:  “WorksafeBC report cites Campbell in worker’s death”  March 06, 2012: Metro News

Gordon Campbell was unaware of his responsibilities when a roofer fell to his death while working on the former premier’s summer home in 2011, according to WSBC.

The Worker’s compensation Board report into the July 4 death of David Lesko outlined the circumstances that led to the roofer’s death at Campbell’s residence in Halfmoon Bay

Lesko fell through an exposed skylight opening, covered only by a sheet of polyethylene to keep dust out of the home below.  He died as he landed on the tile floor inside the house.

Since none of the contractors on site were designated the “prime contractor”, the responsibility technically fell to the homeowner-in this case Campbell-under the WCA.

According to the Worker’s Compensation Board, the prime contractor is “responsible for ensuring that the activities of employers and workers at the workplace relating to health and safety are co-ordinated and is responsible for establishing a system or process to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements.”

The WSBC lead investigator found that Campbell was unaware of his responsibility.  The report also found that the roof opening was not securely guarded, fall-protection equipment was not used and that the prime contractor failed to establish safe work procedures and provide adequate supervision.

3. More and more fines and penalties are being awarded to companies based on failures in their health and safety management.  For example:

Worksafe Magazine: Penalties: March/April 2012

Standard Plumbing and Heating Ltd. $8,085.36

Langley, October 21, 2011

This firm put workers at risk through its repeated failure to fulfill the requirements of a prime contractor at a multiple-employer workplace.  As the prime contractor, the firm was responsible for coordinating the health and safety activities of employers, workers and others at this residential construction site, and for establishing and maintaining a system to ensure compliane with health and safety requirements.  Examples of its failure to do included the lack of the required first aid supplies or posted first aid procedures, the lack of a qualified safety coordinator for the site, and the absence of site drawings showing the necessary safety information.  There were also piles of debris left on the site and ladders that were improperly set up.  Furthermore, the prime contractor failed to provide safety orientations or meetings.  The firm also allowed workers to be on site without the required safety equipment or first aid supplies.

BC Hydro and Power Authority. $75,000.00

Campbell River: October 20, 2011

This firm’s worker was working in an unsafe trench that was more than 4′ deep.  The firm did not ensure that the sides of the trench were sloped or supported as required before allowing the worker to enter it.  The firm also failed to provide its workers with the instruction, training, and supervision needd to ensure their safety.  Further, as the prime contractor of a multiple-employer worksite, the firm failed to do everything reasonably practicable to establish and maintain an effective system for ensuring compliance with health and safety requirements.

 

 

Posted on: March 22nd, 2012 by Victoria Comments

The Case for First Aid

 

First Aid

First Aid Pirate Style

 

Recently, I have had numerous General Contractors, subtrades and even home owners ask me this question:  Why do we need first aid coverage?  This is unheard of in residential construction!

If you picked up the phone and asked Worksafe BC this question, they would give you a legal requirement for first aid coverage.  They would talk to you about all employer’s legal mandate to complete a first aid assessment.  They would point you to the Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines to First Aid and your industries assigned hazard rating.  You would look up tables to determine your requirements based on your proximity to a hospital and the number of workers on site.

SURPRISE!!!  Residential construction is rated a high risk industry and a certified Occupational First Aid Level One attendant and supplies are required on site if there is more than one worker on site.  More than 15 workers on site requires a level 2 attendant. 

The prime Contractor is always responsible for first aid provision.  The buck always stops with the prime contractor.  This responsiblity can not be avoided or ignored.  The consequences for failing to provide first aid and an emergency plan are serious.  Under Bill C-45, an employer can be held criminally negligent for failing to take all necessary precautions to prevent an accident on site or to create a safe work place.  If first aid provisions were not made, there would be very serious legal repercussions in the event of an accident.

General Contractors are obviously struggling with this legal burden.  Worksafe allows a General Contractor to delegate first aid duties to the subcontractors.  If a General Contractor does not have his/her own crew, delegating to the subtrades is the only solution, unless the G.C. wants to hire a first aid attendant to be responsible for the site (yes, they are allowed to sweep too!  They just need to be able to respond to an accident, so plan for a means to contact them in case of an emergency.) 

Delegating first aid means that a General Contractor needs to follow up and ensure that the subtrades are actually providing a certified first aid attendant.  It is all about the follow up!!  There is no evidence of due diligence if no one has verified that the system is being followed.

Subtrades can be reluctant to provide first aid because everyone wants to avoid the cost and hassles of scheduling a certified attendant. This is understandable but short sighted. 

  Why wouldn’t you want first aid coverage on a construction site?  Let us look at this from more than a legal argument.

  1. First aid is a critical part of emergency planning.  The OFA 1 course is only a day course.  An attendant will not become a paramedic in a day.  That is not the purpose.  The purpose of first aid training to be able to respond to an emergency in a level headed methodical manner.  A first aid attendant is trained in the priority action approach.  When there is a serious accident, people panic.  There needs to be someone who is designated to take leadership.
  2. A first aid attendant is a natural leader in safety awareness.  This person can be the team lead in organizing personal protective equipment and supplies.  The first aid attendant can be trained to do other safety related duties and to be aware of hazards.
  3. Beyond the job related emergencies, a first aid attendant can be of service for unexpected events.  Stuff happens in and around the job site.  People can have sudden health crisis.  There will be people on site (workers, engineers, clients etc) who have diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy.  Emergencies happen with people choking, tripping or a car accident.  First aid is a gift of empowerment in a moment of crisis.
  4. Be a pro show.  Having appropriate first aid coverage is the sign of professionalism.  Impress people.
  5. Let us address the cost factor.  The OFA 1 course is one day long.  It costs 90$ and your certification is good for 3 years.  The benefits of first aid coverage far outweigh the cost factor.

 

 

 

Posted on: March 3rd, 2012 by Victoria Comments

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