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Safety Awareness Rules for Utilities

By Phill Feltham

Utilities ready for Ontario health and safety awareness training

BY PHILL FELTHAM, Editor-in-Chief
Electricity Today Magazine

The Government of Ontario has implemented new regulations that require mandatory basic occupational health and safety training. The new regulations, “Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training”, under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), set out a number of requirements.

First, the regulation sets out the minimum content necessary for both worker and supervisor awareness training programs. For example, workers and supervisory must be trained on their rights and duties under the OHSA as well as know the role of joint health and safety committees and representatives. In addition, content must be provided on common workplace hazards and occupational illnesses.

Additionally, employers must ensure that their workers complete the training program as soon as practicable and that supervisors complete the required training within one week on the job as supervisor. Moreover, employers are required to keep records and provide workers and supervisors with proof of training completion upon request. These rules place additional responsibility on employers to ensure that their workers obtain a minimum standard of occupational health and safety training.

This new legislation applies to all workplaces in Ontario—including electrical utilities. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has prepared some awareness training programs and materials that can be used by supervisors and workers.

However, industry organizations such as the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) have prepared awareness courses that are specific to utility workers such as powerline technicians, utility arborists, substation electrical workers, electrical engineers, electrical supervisors, and contract administrators. The IHSA is recognized by the provincial government and works with employers and workers as a part of Ontario’s health and safety system to eliminate occupational injury and illnesses.

Ontario’s new occupational health and safety regulation is reflected, among other critical updates, in the recently updated Electrical Utility Safety Rules (EUSR) handbook, published by IHSA. The rulebook is reviewed every five years to ensure rules are up to date and reflect current work practices. According to the IHSA, the EUSR was reviewed in 2013 through an extensive stakeholder engagement process. Some of the involved parties include electric utilities and utility contractors at the management and worker levels.

“Along with feedback, the review process also takes into consideration a review of any critical or near miss incidents, critical injuries, fatalities or any other issues that have come to light since the last edition,” says Al Beattie, chief executive officer of the IHSA. “Any changes that come from this process need strong supporting rationale and should assist in providing clarity to the rules and ensure a stronger understanding and use of the rules.” The rules contained in this handbook are recognized and included in Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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