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Provinces agree on safety designation

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The B.C. Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA) recently announced they are close to finalizing an agreement that will recognize the National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO) designation in B.C. as well as Alberta, where it was created. In British Columbia, the designation will be B.C. NCSO.

The B.C. Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA) recently announced they are close to finalizing an agreement that will recognize the National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO) designation in B.C. as well as Alberta, where it was created. In British Columbia, the designation will be B.C. NCSO.

“The reason for the B.C. NCSO designation, which will be modeled on the ACSA’s NCSO, is to improve the mobility of construction safety officers between provinces,” said BCCSA executive director Mike McKenna.

“With the large amount of inter-provincial work being done across the two provinces, this new program will allow for reduced retraining of workers who already have construction safety courses with either the ACSA or the BCCSA under their belts.”

McKenna said BCCSA members have been requesting the adoption of the NCSO designation in B.C. for many years.

“Many discussions and presentations have been undertaken over the last several years and we are excited to announce that we will be offering this program in the coming months,” he said.

McKenna said the BCCSA expects to start offering the new program by the end of 2014, after which time B.C. NCSO will become the safety officer designation of choice in B.C.

“Right now British Columbia and Alberta are preparing to sign an agreement,” he said.

“Then, we will review the Alberta program material and bring in ACSA trainers for the first few sessions, in order to train the B.C. trainers.”

Dan MacLennan, ACSA executive director, said the joint designations will be a win-win for the Alberta and B.C. construction industries.

“It means each province’s designation will be accepted by the other and that any changes to the standard requirements in the future will raise the bar in both jurisdictions,” he said.

Alberta developed the NCSO training and designation in the early 1990s.

The main objective of the program is to combine formal training and a safety officer’s personal field experience.

To receive certification as an NCSO, individuals must have at least three years field experience in the construction industry.

They must successfully complete certification in 13 of the courses listed in the NCSO information package.

Some of the topics in the package are supervisor responsibilities, hazard identification and controls, all types of site inspections, accident investigations and crew toolbox talks.

BCCSA assistant director of operations Urvi Ramsoondar said the program for B.C. NCSO designation will follow the lead of the Alberta NCSO program.

“The BCCSA has a construction safety specialist (CSS) designation now,” she said.

“The NCSO program will be a step up from the CSS program. To obtain the designation, individuals will be required to take more courses that will build their knowledge of relevant health and safety legislation, as well as site-specific safety activities, such as confined space and excavation work.”

To receive a B.C. NCSO designation, aspiring safety officers will have to complete the program and pass an evaluation at the end of each course in the program.

They will also need to have at least three years, and possibly up to five years, of construction safety field experience.

“Because the administration of the B.C. NCSO program will be structured to mirror the Alberta version, individuals seeking the certificate will be able to complete the courses at their own pace,” Ramsoondar said.

BCCSA senior safety advisor Jeff Lyth said the B.C. NCSO designation is distinct from the construction safety officer (CSO) designation, which is regulated by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of B.C.

“The origin of the CSO designation was a series of construction incidents in Vancouver in the 1980s,” he said.

“Discussions between the City of Vancouver and the Workers’ Compensation Board of B.C. (the forerunner of WorkSafeBC) resulted in a CSO program that was developed in the early 1990s and hosted by the (now defunct) B.C. Safety Council.”

The CSO designation, which can be earned after completing a two-week course, is required on projects larger than a certain size and complexity, as specified in Part 8 of the Vancouver Building Bylaw.

“The duties are typically to provide first aid, as well as coordinate worker and public safety,” Lyth said.

“This is done via conducting orientations, twice-a-day inspections, meetings and investigations.”

by Peter Caulfield

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