Truck News


New fall-protection rules snag free

TORONTO, Ont. - It has been five months since new federal fall-protection regulations came into effect, and so far, carriers don't appear to be having any problems complying with the new law.The Canad...

Paul Landry
Paul Landry

TORONTO, Ont. – It has been five months since new federal fall-protection regulations came into effect, and so far, carriers don’t appear to be having any problems complying with the new law.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and the B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA), which have both been working with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) officials on implementation and enforcement issues revolving around the new fall-protection regulations, aren’t getting any complaints.

“So far, no problems have been reported to CTA either by carriers or by HRDC,” says Graham Cooper, senior vice-president of the Alliance.

Adds BCTA president Paul Landry, “We’ve not heard a peep from HRDC officials or carriers regarding the new regulations. I hope to meet with regional HRDC officials in the near future to keep our lines of communication open.”

New federal fall-protection regulations came into effect last Nov. 6.

The changes to Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations require a fall protection system on any “unguarded structure or on a vehicle” – including trailers – where an employee is working at a height of more than 2.4 metres above a “permanent safe level.”

The changes to the regulations closed a loophole in old rules that previously used only the word “structure.”

A 1996 Ontario Court (General Division) ruling said that trucks and other mobile equipment were not “structures” and fall-protection regulations in place at the time did not apply to them.

The new wording to include vehicles means there have to be adequate fall-protection systems on trucks, trailers, railway cars, aircraft and other mobile equipment.

Work on revising the fall-protection rules originally started in 1996 but proposed regulations were shelved in 1999 when a consensus between HRDC, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the CTA and the Federal Regulated Employers in Transportation and Communications Organization (FETCO) could not be reached.

Transportation industry companies argued that they couldn’t comply with a blanket fall-protection regulation because installing systems on some equipment such as log trucks and some tankers, wasn’t practical.

The CTA argued at the time that the Labour Branch “overestimated the benefits, underestimated the costs to the industry, had failed to define what constitutes an acceptable fall-protection system, and had not considered a transition period for industry compliance.”

The proposed regulations were shelved, but re-introduced last fall, this time with a “reasonably practicable” clause.

The CTA has said although it’s in favor of fall-protection regulations, it was opposed to this amendment largely for the same reasons as previously.

Its number-one argument is that the trucking industry “recognizes that its employees are its most valuable resource” and has consequently “invested hundreds of millions of dollars” making sure that there are systems on trucks to help prevent dangerous falls.

The sticking point over the new federal fall-protection regulations was whether it’s “reasonably practicable” for an employer to install a fall-protection system on a truck or trailer.

The CTA said several things need to be considered including the cost of installing a system, the degree of risk, whether it’s possible to comply without introducing other hazards, whether the cost justifies the amount of improved safety, and the length of time that a fall-protection system would benefit employees.

The Alliance argued, for example, that it’s not beneficial installing a system on an aging trailer that soon will be replaced.

Under the new regulations, if an employer feels it’s not “reasonably practicable” to install a fall protection system, the company has to work with its workplace health and safety committee, do a job safety analysis, train affected employees, and provide a written report to HRDC officers about why it’s not reasonably practicable to install a fall-protection system on the trailer or other mobile piece of equipment.

Barry Montague, vice-president of the Ontario Trucking Association, says that the OTA has “had some fairly good meetings with HRDC,” and there’s every indication that the “protocol for getting this sorted out is going to be fairly friendly to the carriers.”

“I’m not anticipating any difficulties, certainly not in the near future,” he says.

The CTA says it plans to keep the lines of communication and information open with HRDC about fall-protection system and compliance problems that may arise.

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