John Preston, executive director of the BC Association of Restoration Contractors, and Jim Short, the director of health, safety and environment for On Side Restoration co-presented "Safety Starts Always with a Site Safety Assessment" at the Bridging the Gap safety conference in Richmond, B.C. on Nov. 14.
A general contractor does new construction on a clean, controlled worksite, Preston said, whereas a restoration contractor restores property damaged by fire, flood, win, biohazards and other problems.
Older buildings are routinely involved, and older materials are routinely present.
"Not to Code" situations are often encountered, Preston added. Sewage discharge is a common issue, often when homeowners come home from holidays. Potential hazards include disease, standing water causing high humidity, wet drywall and possible mold.
The industry's major problem, Preston said, is that several years ago WorkSafeBC stated the industry safety record was not acceptable, with a base rate safety average 3.5 times worse than the all-industry average for the province.
But even compared to the general construction industry, restoration had a worse record, Preston said.
"Such an industry record was unfair to all parties," Preston said. "It was unfair to the workers, and unsustainable for the companies."
The early response was to create its own health and safety association called the BC Association of Restoration Contractors (BCARC), which allowed the industry-wide problem to be addressed with an industry-wide solution. It was a non-profit, managed by a neutral party.
The BCARC board established a technical advisory committee, mandated to research and develop industry reduction strategies.
The motto of the committee is "we do not compete on safety," Preston said.
The key findings of the committee were that an industry standard was needed. But "safe work practices start before the work begins," Preston said.
The solution was a Site Safety Assessment Program, Short said.
"We wanted a one page safety assessment form, an online training course and a user guide," Short added.
The guidebook mirrors the content of online material, and includes expanded notes on requirements for notices, permits and plans, specifically requirements for notice of project.
Preston said the SSA program is working, and that incidents have declined dramatically since implementing the program. Rates have also held post-implementation, he said.