Importance of Training to Ensure Health and Safety on Construction Sites

– Alain Doyle –

Training of construction workers is important to ensure the health and safety of workers on construction sites and the safety of the public. The training issue is one of the main aspects of my work. Last week, the coroner's report on the July 2021 accident at the Solar uniquartier condo development site in Brossard was released. An apprentice was killed because of a poorly secured load on a crane.[1] He was not trained and the crane operator himself was not trained.

Lack of training is a big problem in construction. The more it goes on, the more people come in through the labour pools. There is a shortage of apprentices in construction, so the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) allows anyone who can get a 150-hour job guarantee to enter the construction industry. There are fewer and fewer competent people on the construction sites.

As far as crane operators go, you can't become a crane operator through labour pools. We've hardly ever had one, in fact only once in our history. But for many other trades, such as carpenters, general labourers, heavy equipment workers, there are many workers who enter through the labour pool, without initial training.

Despite our struggle, we have not been able to maintain the mandatory nature of the crane operator training. There is now a mandatory 120-hour training program in a Quebec City school, the FPE, while the vocational training leading to a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP) is 872 hours. From what we hear, there are few students enrolled in the FPE because the costs for the students are quite high. Also, if the student fails his or her final exam, he or she is not allowed to retake it and must take a DEP. We are still fighting for DEP training or recognition of prior learning.

A safe crane operator trade is central to the health and safety of workers and the public.[2] A bad manoeuvre, if the crane tips over, or parts of the load are dropped, is enough to injure or kill someone. It is the crane operator who must enforce what the machine manufacturer allows. If it's too windy, it's up to the crane operator to say he's not doing the lift. It is his responsibility to make the decision because by doing the lift in these conditions, he can have an accident. He has to make sure that the loads are properly secured. Rain or shine, he must set up his crane properly to work as safely as possible.

Health and safety is the main aspect of my job. I do a lot of site visits to make sure that all health and safety issues are respected.

Right now, we have big problems with lifts that are done side by side. In order to save time, we often lift several loads at once on a single crane that are suspended separately instead of one load at a time. People can be injured by doing this. There is a lot of pressure on the worker to save time and go faster.

This is done to the detriment of the worker and it can have a serious impact on the public as well.

Alain Doyle is the Director of the Union des opérateurs grutiers, Local 791-G of the FTQ-Construction.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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