Regulatory Changes in Quebec Crane
Expert Panel Report Does Not Respect Safety Demands of Those Who Do the Work
The Quebec government unilaterally decreed in April of
last year, new regulations governing the training of Quebec crane
operators. The decree overturned the established standards and training
that new crane operators must meet to ensure their own safety and that
of other construction workers and the public. The government handed
its decree despite widespread opposition to the regulations, in
particular from the crane operators themselves and their union.
Graphic on crane safety produced by FTQ
Construction comparing previous
870 hours mandatory classroom training to new 80-hour on-the-job
During public hearings into the proposed changes
construction workers and their unions took a firm stand, describing the
changes as unsafe and in violation of the Canadian Standards
Association's Z150 safety code under which all Quebec crane workers
fall. The code specifies the requirements related to mobile cranes to
ensure the safety of
workers and the public.
The initiative for the changes came from the
state-organized and funded Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ), which
oversees the construction trades and workers for the benefit of the
biggest construction companies. The companies complained about a
shortage of crane operators and demanded that the training regulations
relaxed to create a larger pool of available crane operators regardless
of their training and competence in the trade.
The government refuses to listen to the crane operators
and their union and insists on implementing the changes. The crane
operators and their union launched a determined struggle in opposition
including an entire week last June when they refused to report for
work. They denounced the government for imposing changes that in
essence are an
attack on well-established methods of training to ensure the safety of
all at a construction site including the public.
The crane operators articulated two main demands: the
new regulation must be withdrawn and mandatory crane operator training
be maintained and that a roundtable be created to include all concerned
parties, including teachers, to look into the problems linked to the
crane operator sector and general construction site safety.
government set up what it called an Expert Panel on regulatory
changes in crane operator training. The report submitted by the panel
at the end of March does not start from the need for training to ensure
safety. It starts from the premise of a skilled labour shortage which
is precisely the pretext being used by the construction industry and
government to lower training and safety standards.
facing crane operators in Quebec is a good example of how
what is called an expert panel is established to dismiss the workers'
demand for the enforcement of regulations which stipulate proper safety
training. It was established to overcome the fact that the workers
would not accept the lower inadequate standards and that this issue is
so serious they refused to work for a week to defend the proper system
of training. It shows that today what are called expert panels are not
trustworthy because the political aim tarnishes the integrity of the
expertise called upon to adjudicate the process.
The government must not be allowed to act against the
wishes of those involved in construction work. Crane operators and
other construction workers and their organizations must be in the
forefront of all decision-making when it comes to safety and other
concerns in their industry.
Report of the Expert Panel
The panel of independent experts, appointed by the
Quebec government to
study from a safety perspective the new regulation on crane operator
training released its report at the end of March. The new regulation
was decreed by the Quebec government, at the request of the Quebec
Construction Commission (CCQ) in April of 2018,
without the approval of the crane operators who massively and publicly
opposed it. The government
organized the panel of experts in the wake of the struggle of the crane
operators to have the new regulation withdrawn.
In its report, the Expert Panel fails to mention that
during the public hearings held in 2018, almost all participants took a
firm stand against the new regulation, describing it as unsafe and in
violation of the Canadian Standards Association's Z150 safety code
that all Quebec crane workers fall under. The crane operators claim
that the code
specifies the safety requirements relating to mobile cranes so as to
ensure the safety of workers and the public.
Expert Panel does not acknowledge the need for compulsory
and enforceable regulations regarding the training of crane operators
which must be the basis of legislation so as to actually ensure the
security of the person and a construction site. Instead, by speaking of
"guiding principles" as a frame of reference for its analysis and
recommendations, the Export Panel justifies its recommendation that the
Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) that has been the required standard
for crane operators, becomes a "reference" instead of a requirement.
notes that cranes are complex machines that are
crucial to understand. It says understanding of the safe operation of
these complex machines requires the mastery of basic theoretical and
practical knowledge. But how does a new crane operator acquire this
understanding and mastery without technical training and hands-on
practical education that the DVS gives them?
The report says that instead of making the DVS
compulsory, the DVS for new crane operators should become optional,
exactly what the government wants. The course becomes a so-called
reference with regard to the fundamental knowledge required for the
trade. It remains the "preferred route" for acquiring the crane
competency certificate but not a requirement.
In oblique language usually associated with "fine
print," the report goes on to say that "irrespective of the route
taken to apprenticeship, apprentice crane operators who take the
accompanying qualification examination should have a professional
background allowing them to have acquired knowledge, experience and
(Emphasis added.) This is similar to saying; "irrespective of
the route taken" to become a carpenter, electrician, doctor or engineer
you should "have a professional background allowing you to have
acquired knowledge, experience and comparable skills."
Can the Panel Be Considered Serious about Safety?
The panel is supposedly dealing with serious safety
concerns that have a long history. How can the people and construction
workers in particular take the wishy-washy words of the panel
seriously? Its guiding principles lack consistency and firmness. They
are detached from the concrete situation facing crane operators,
construction workers and
the public. Years of mounting disastrous accidents led to the
introduction of mandatory professional crane operator training in the
first place. Will workers and the public be safer if the DVS is no
longer mandatory but reduced to a "reference"; reduced to something in
the background perhaps trotted out now and again to hide the reality of
a lack of
Lost will be the fact that
the DVS came into being as a
result of the many deaths besieging the trade. The compulsory training
with competent instructors effectively reduced the number of fatalities
and accidents that have taken place since its adoption twenty years
ago. What possibly motivates the panel to write such irresponsible
as "irrespective of the route taken to apprenticeship?" Could it be
that the practical form of gaining access to an apprenticeship, the
mandatory DVS, was and still is to avoid the
deaths and accidents associated with the operation of mobile cranes but
that something else altogether motivates its replacement such as the
hysteria of the CCQ over a "labour shortage"?
The panel concludes that the company training program
decreed by the Quebec government and the CCQ to replace the DVS is
"insufficient" from the point of view of an apprenticeship and for new
workers to grasp the basic concepts required for the safe operation of
a crane. Does it then call for the DVS to continue as a proven training
method? No, it proposes a wishy-washy amendment to the proposed
government program in keeping with its wishy-washy basic consideration.
The program would include a three-week initial training in a vocational
training centre. It recommends that any further enrollment in the new
on-site training be suspended until the three-week initial
training period is implemented.
The panel begins from the point of view that the new
regulation is here to stay. It recommends that in order to blunt the
opposition a minor amendment should be included to make it appear as if
the experts were serious about safety. The only thing the panel is
serious about is to find a way to implement the dictate of the
government and CCQ
and undermine all opposition and serious discussion as to what is
necessary to bring down and keep down the unacceptable toll of death
and injury in the construction sector.
What Is Really Behind the Decision of the Government
and Its Panel of Experts?
Regarding a labour shortage, one fact well-known to all
involved in the construction sector is that on a yearly basis, 14 per
cent of workers leave construction work because the working conditions,
including safety, are intolerable. The government and CCQ do not want
an investigation as to why workers leave the industry and why the death
toll is so high. No, they simply want to relax the requirements for
entry to the trade so that new bodies are available for hire regardless
of their competency.
The panel's report does not start from the point of view
of ensuring worker and public safety above all else. It does not start
by involving the workers themselves and their organizations in
recognizing the existing problems and examining how to change the
conditions for the better. The panel is infused with the pragmatism of
those who wield
economic and political power. This pragmatism puts their company profit
before all principles. This pragmatism does not include the rights of
construction workers as inviolable, including their right to working
and living conditions acceptable to themselves and to conditions within
the construction sector acceptable to a civilized society.
Working people should redouble their support of the
struggle of crane operators to ensure the safety of all in opposition
to the intransigence and arrogance of the government and the big
business interests it serves.
1. For reports on the struggle of
crane operators in defence of their rights and the safety of all see:
Call for Release of Report on Crane Operator
Safety," Workers' Forum, March 7, 2019.
- "Crane Operators,
Allies and Experts All Say No! to Irresponsible New
Regulations," Workers' Forum, January 24, 2009.
and Twisted Logic and Actions of the Rulers," Pierre
Forum, July 19, 2018.
- "Recent Developments in
Quebec Crane Operators' Fight for Their
Rights," Workers' Forum, July 3, 2018.
2. The new regulation abolished
the mandatory character of the Diploma of Vocational Studies of 870
hours of practical training within an educational setting to become a
crane operator. Instead the diploma is now optional. A program of 150
hours has been introduced to be provided on site and under the
of construction companies. The CCQ and the government also replaced the
diploma with an 80-hour course for the operation of boom trucks with a
maximum capacity of 30 tonnes. This type of boom truck is precisely the
type of crane that overturns most frequently and causes the most damage.
This article was published in
Number 14 - April 18, 2019
Regulatory Changes in Quebec Crane
Operator Training: Expert Panel Report Does Not Respect Safety Demands of Those Who Do the Work - Pierre Chénier