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Permitting Residential Drywallers To Use Stilts

Archived Backgrounder

Permitting Residential Drywallers To Use Stilts

The Construction Regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act previously prohibited the use of stilts on construction projects under any circumstances.

The revised regulation regarding stilts and wooden guardrail systems support the government's Open for Business initiative and were requested by the construction industry to improve its efficiency and competitiveness, particularly in residential construction. These key amendments also support the government's Safe At Work Ontario strategy for preventing workplace injuries.

Modern stilts allow more flexible and comfortable foot movement, are less tiring to use, and afford users better balance, stability and control.

The residential construction industry recently commissioned the Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, to compare the ergonomics of using stilts with conventional benches during drywall taping. The study found that mechanical forces of stilts on users' major body joints remained within normal, safe limits and that the use of stilts for drywall work did not pose greater ergonomic hazards to workers. The ministry therefore agreed to amend the regulation to allow the use of stilts under limited circumstances and with specified safety measures in place. The MOL worked closely with the industry in developing the new stilts requirements.

Stilts are now permitted:

  • only in residential construction and only for drywall finishing, and insulation and vapour barrier installation
  • up to a maximum stilts height of 76 cm (about 30 inches)
  • on level and rigid work surfaces where all openings and open sides are adequately covered or guarded, and debris and/or obstructions have been removed, guarded, placed or secured so they do not pose tripping/slipping hazards to stilts users
  • in areas where guardrails are extended to accommodate the height of the stilts being used to provide adequate fall protection to stilts users
  • provided that workers have completed an approved training program and carry documentation of this, and
  • provided that the stilts are in good condition and inspected each day before use

An eight-hour certification training program on the safe use of stilts is being developed by the industry in consultation with the MOL to enable employers, supervisors and workers to comply with the new stilts requirements.

Other amendments

After industry consultations, the MOL has replaced the current technical loading specifications in the regulation for wooden guardrail systems with a performance-based requirement for them to be constructed and installed to resist all loads to which they may be subjected by workers.

Further amendments to the regulation are technical and administrative. In some instances they provide operational and/or enforcement clarity and, in others, they reduce the administrative burden on employers, while continuing to ensure worker health and safety.

These additional amendments include:

  • updates to outdated references to CSA standards for fall protection equipment
  • requirements regarding marine safety equipment updated for consistency with applicable federal marine safety legislation, and regarding lifejackets and personal flotation devices to protect workers from drowning
  • updated reference to the Electrical Utility Safety Rules which were revised in January 2009
  • clarification of employers' and workers' responsibilities to locate and mark underground services such as gas pipelines and electrical cables before beginning to excavate (so as to strengthen worker and public protection from accidental damage to underground services; this is consistent with the original intent of the regulation)
  • elimination of requirements for contractors to provide the MOL with engineering documents and specifications for prefabricated, hydraulic or engineered support systems and for shoring and bracing of shafts deeper than 1.2 metres (however, these documents are required to be kept on site and available for MOL inspectors to review)

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