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After toddler death, Calgary Construction Association issues safety guide

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by Richard Gilbert

A guide to help ensure the safety of workers and the public on or near highrise construction sites in Calgary has been produced after a toddler was killed by falling debris.

A guide to help ensure the safety of workers and the public on or near highrise construction sites in Calgary has been produced after a toddler was killed by falling debris.

“We want a copy of the guide in the hands of every site superintendant in Calgary,” said Dave Smith, executive vice president of the Calgary Construction Association (CCA).

“We had our initial print of 500 copies and we think there is a much greater demand. We have a pocket size version for workers on site and a book size for the site office.”

The Calgary On-site Construction Safety Committee is releasing a best practices guide, that has been developed to raise awareness of the hazards and conditions around the city’s construction sites.

The guide is divided into the four sections.

It includes hoarding of a construction/demolition site, managing vehicular and pedestrian traffic adjacent to construction sites, lighting and hoisting operations, and securing construction materials and equipment on site.

“The original issues, addressed by the document, came forward when the economy took a dip,” said Dave Smith.

“Almost everyday, a construction site was shut down because the developer went into receivership. What was often left was an excavation site, with a fence around it.”

As the construction boom in Calgary slowed down in late 2008, city council began work on a plan to increase security and safety on abandoned construction sites.

In early 2009, the priorities were to protect the public from any hazards, protect city infrastructure and to reduce the visual and community impacts caused by suspended construction sites with open excavations.

“These sites were seen as an eyesore and a safety risk,” said Smith.

“But, when Michelle Krsek was killed and her father and brother injured, the real issue became safety at construction sites, as opposed to the unsightliness of abandoned excavations.”

In the aftermath of Krsek’s death and similar incidents involving falling construction debris in downtown Calgary, the city and the local construction industry formed a committee to examine all aspects of public safety.

The guide includes some of the following best practices for securing materials, tools and debris on a construction site: conducting pre-job safety assessments, holding workers accountable for their actions, providing material storage containment areas, and using tool lanyards to install and maintain netting around the perimeter of the building.

Another best practice involves the netting of a substantial surface area, be it vertical between floor levels or suspended out bound of the floors, below the active floor under construction.

Alberta Employment and Immigration reviewed the guide and found the information meets occupational health and safety legislative requirements.

However, users are cautioned the booklet is only to be used as a guide.

Proper compliance requires a customized program, that addresses the conditions of the specific worksite.

The guide will initially be distributed to the 850 members of the CCA that has 35,000 employees.

But, the city wants to make sure the guide is available to all contractors.

Eventually, the guide will become part of the permit application process.

In August 2008, three-year-old Krsek was walking with her family along 9th Avenue S.W., when she was hit by a bundle of steel roofing materials.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

In addition, there have been a series of incidents at downtown construction sites after the tragic death.

These included:

  • A small crane that slipped off the side of the Bow tower and dropped its load on Sept. 26, 2008.

A tether stopped the crane from plunging three stories to the ground, but the crane smashed a window as it dangled over the side.

  • A piece of scaffolding falling from the 19th storey of the Penn West Tower on 9th Avenue crashed onto a parkade ramp on Sept 26, 2008.

No one was injured by the debris.

  • In May this year, a large tool weighing two kilograms crashed to the ground from the Bow building construction site.

The force of the wrench falling to the ground was so great that it bounced off the concrete and flew across the street, hit the cement apron in front of city police headquarters and smashed a 20-centimetre hole in a window.

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