Worker injuries due to falls have dropped 19% since Ontario mandated working-at-heights training, a new study has found.
The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) study, published earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health, compared lost-time injury fall rates between the three-year period in Ontario before the heights training standard was first implemented (2012-14) and the three-year period after it came into full effect (2017-19).
In 2017, Ontario implemented mandatory day-long working-at-heights training in the construction sector, following an expert advisory panel recommendation. The panel was convened in the wake of a 2009 swing-stage collapse in Toronto that resulted in four migrant workers falling to their deaths.
More than 400,000 training sessions had already been completed by 2017, and 160 training providers had been accredited, when the requirement took full effect.
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“Although a 19% drop may seem modest, previous research tells us that a reduction of this size would be considered typical of a well-planned training program,” said IWH scientist Dr. Lynda Robson, who led the study, a follow-up to research published in 2019. “In our analysis, this reduction in injury rates amounts to four deaths and 320 lost-time injuries avoided during the three-year period after the change went into effect,” adds Robson.
The decline in the targeted fall claim incidence rate of the other Canadian provinces was 6%, the study found.
The study notes that since 2001, fall-protection training had been required for Ontario construction workers; however, the content and delivery method of that training had not been specified, “so training was sometimes very brief and not always hands-on,” state the authors of the study.
The new study also followed up with a sample of 600 construction workers who took working-at-heights training in 2017, and found they continued to maintain fall protection practices two years after.