Blog Post #509 – Fall Protection Revamped in New Brunswick

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Seven years of research, consultation and legal drafting have produced new fall protection requirements in New Brunswick that came into force on January 1, 2011.

Changes to the General Regulation, under the province’s OH&S Act, include the following: preference for systems that do not allow a worker to fall, such as guardrails and travel restraints; additional instruction and training obligations; new provisions for roofing and weatherproofing sectors; reference to new and updated Canadian Standards Association guidelines; and extra responsibilities for building owners to ensure anyone carrying out work on their behalf complies with the rules.

“In the area of fall protection, we felt we weren’t keeping up with current standards,” suggests Richard Blais, director of the chief compliance office at Work-SafeNB in Saint John. “We felt there was not enough substance in our current legislation and we needed to enhance that,” Blais says.

A major thrust of the amendments is to establish what he calls a “hierarchy of intervention.” The idea is to focus on fall prevention as opposed to rescue after a fall, he says. “I think people work a lot faster and certainly they’re a lot safer when you have guardrails than when you have fall arrest or safety monitors.”

The provision for a control zone safety monitor, who helps ensure that workers do not fall, existed before the new amendments, says Blais, “but it was lacking in specificity in terms of what employers should do.”

The amendments require a fall protection ‘code of practice’ for those working from a height of 7.5 metres or more and when working within a control zone with a safety monitor, he says.

Another key amendment is clarification of responsibilities for building owners to ensure that anyone conducting work for them remains in compliance, he adds. Even though New Brunswick’s OH&S Act currently addresses the general duty provisions of owners with regard to health and safety, the view of WorkSafeNB officials is that there was not “enough teeth” in the act.

“We put in a lot of emphasis on responsibilities of building owners to ensure the legislation itself was being followed by the contractors that they hire,” Blais says.

“The industry has been using the standards in the new regulation for quite some time now,” suggests Roy Silliker, general manager of the New Brunswick Construction Safety Association.

The Miramichi, New Brunswick-based association was in the process of reviewing its own fall protection awareness course, Silliker says. Officials, however, have decided to hold off on moving forward until WorkSafeNB information sessions, expected to be held across the province during the month of February, have been completed.

My opinion

7.5 metres (or 24.375 feet) before some type of fall protection is in place? REALLY!!! Ontario uses a 3 metre requirement which makes more sense. A person can be seriously hurt from a fall of 10 feet or less.

Wow, I cannot fathom the lack of enthusiasm on the part of WorkSafeNB. I guess the workers are only a little safer there. Mind you, this is a few years old now so it is my hope that the legislative changes shown above would have been updated by now to introduce a 3 metre standard which is in most places, not just in Ontario.

I also hope they dramatically increase the fines as well. Prevention through ethical enforcement would be the answer. It is the right way to improve the work site safety. It should have been a part of the legislative changes.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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