February 13, 2006
Industry standards continuously raise the bar
Conducting routine workplace inspections can help employers to resolve potential health and safety problems before they occur. However, deciding who should inspect what can be challenging.
Constructors, employers, supervisors and workers all have responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to help create a safe working environment, says Training and Advisory field consultant Dan Monteith of the Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO).
“Each group is also required to inspect to varying degrees, but project superintendents are required by law to inspect weekly, or even more frequently than that.”
However, inspections shouldn’t be limited to what is required by law.
Monteith suggests employers keep informed about what the rest of the industry is doing in terms of health and safety.
“Individual companies can raise the bar on what needs to be inspected by developing their own standards. When that becomes the norm in the industry, you’ll be expected to be there as well.”
Monteith also warns employers to set attainable health and safety goals. “Never say you’re going to do something that you can’t possibly do — because now the onus is on you to follow up on it with action. You may have followed the letter of the law, but if you fail to inspect and enforce something that you’ve promised to do, you can be held accountable for it. You can’t later say that it didn’t really apply.”
Monteith says the inspector’s best tool is a still or video camera used to record what may be difficult to prove later.
“A Polaroid or film camera is the preferred method of proof, but if you’re using a digital camera, take multiple photos from three different angles. It’s difficult to alter a digital photo three times in exactly the same way and a court can check that.”
Monteith spoke at the CSAO’s 4th Annual Construction Health and Safety Conference in Toronto.
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