Like most business owners, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that came with instituting a Health and Safety policy at ArmourCo Solutions. I understood that it was critical that we comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and do everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees and sub trades. Add to this was my concern regarding liability issues, especially on large projects where more than one trade might be involved, and the cost that implementing such a plan would have on our company and on our sub trades—I knew I was way out of my comfort zone.
Fortunately, ArmourCo Solutions had hired a project manager, Chris Linkert, who had experience in developing Health and Safety policies. Together we began the task of building our policy base and transforming our company into not only a compliant company but also a resource for our clients. Our goal: to be the company of choice for property managers, recognized for our understanding of Health and Safety, who value its importance as much as they, their Board of Directors and management companies do.
So what was our first step?
Chris felt that WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Material Information System) training was the best place to start. To keep costs down, Chris attended a certification course which trained him to be a trainer. His certification as a trainer provided us with the opportunity to offer, train and certify all of our staff as well as any sub trade that does not have prior training. (Incidentally Chris also developed our FREE on-line training and certification system that is available to all property managers).
Step two was to develop our Health and Safety policy including site hazard inspections, WSIB compliance, workplace violence and harassment policy, full MSDS binders for all products used and any and all other necessary polices and procedures which relate to our industry and the work we do. This was no small task. It is also a task that is never finished.
Hazard assessments, training and verifications are ongoing processes. Each site has unique conditions which must be addressed and documented. For Property Managers and Boards, the job is a bit easier; they are only dealing with one site. Even with only one site to maintain, it still means that condominium corporations have the responsibility under the Occupation Health and Safety Act to ensure that all direct hire employees, sub-trades and contract personnel are trained in and comply with the health and safety rules as outlined in the corporation’s Health and Safety policy.
I recently had a conversation with Robert Buckler, of Beredan Management & Consulting Inc., an independent condominium consultant, who relayed a conversation that he had with a Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector. What I found to be most interesting was that condominiums are very much on the radar of the MOL; this after years of not garnering much attention at all. Not surprisingly this comes in the wake of the recent injuries and deaths of construction workers on condominium sites. Robert was told that the MOL was well aware of condominiums and that they were targeting key compliance issues:
- Proof of WHMIS training
- An up to date MSDS binder
- A workplace violence and harassment policy
- Elevator safety and machine room safety
- Installation of wash stations where appropriate
I think that the MOL inspectors have an expectation that condominiums show due diligence in their efforts to comply with the Act. The concept of compliance is not easy. MOL inspectors can ask for and gain access to a condominium corporation’s records for inspection purposes when investigating compliance. I also think that it is just as important that every contractor who works at a condo site be compliant. The key is to prove and document that every effort is being made and that a process is being employed to move towards compliance.
At ArmourCo Solutions we regularly meet to examine our Health and Safety processes. We look for gaps and ways to improve our policies and procedures. Our project managers stress the importance of safe work practices with all of our employees and sub trades. We document workplace hazards and remind everyone about safe operating procedures. Having Health and Safety compliance meetings with our sub trades may not always be fun but everyone understands that MOL inspectors rarely have a sense of humour about workplace accidents or injuries.
So when (not if) a Ministry of Labour inspector drops in to one of our sites, we are able to not only tell them we are committed to Health and Safety but we can prove it with documented policies and procedures, and the certification of our workers.
If you are looking for a painting and caulking contractor for your condominium town home or high-rise building, who cares about health and safety, give ArmourCo Solutions a call. 905-637-7999.