The Ontario government has taken action to strengthen training requirements for operators of rotary foundation drill rigs.

As of July 1, 2016, operators will require a crane licence and specific training to operate a foundation and piling drill rig in Ontario.

The announcement was made at a construction site in Toronto on Dec. 9 by Labour Minister Kevin Flynn.

The announcement came four years and two months after Kyle James Knox, a 24-year-old Local 793 crane apprentice, was killed when a drill rig collapsed onto a backhoe he was operating at a construction site at York University.

Another Local 793 member, Dan DeLuca, was seriously injured in the Oct. 11, 2011 accident.

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher, who has been fighting for regulatory changes since the accident, spoke at the announcement ceremony and called it a historic event.

He said construction sites will be safer now that the province has introduced regulations to ensure that the operators of rotary foundation drill rigs are properly trained and licensed.

“We have never given up on making sure we corrected the loophole that allowed an operator who is not licensed to operate this type of equipment. That will never happen again.”

Gallagher said the changes announced by Labour Minister Flynn will make it a requirement that operators of foundation rotary drill rigs go through a full apprenticeship program.

“That is going to make Ontario the gold standard in North America with respect to operating this equipment and I believe other jurisdictions will turn to us when they’re trying to discover how they should raise the bar and raise standards.”

Gallagher thanked the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario for also supporting the effort to change the regulations, as well as Local 793 operators Jeff Brett of Deep Foundations and Edward Christensen of Bermingham Construction who participated in a video that was shown to provincial officials to show the complexities of operating drill rigs.

Gallagher also spoke about apprentice Knox, saying that he had a promising career ahead of him and was only one week from graduating and becoming a journeyman crane operator.

“He went to work one day, like we all do, expecting to return at the end of the day.”

Gallagher noted that his sympathies continue to lie with Knox’s mother, Sherry, and the Knox family.

While the changes announced by Flynn are welcome, Gallagher said there is still more work to be done.

“This is a beginning and not an end,” he said, noting that training should be made compulsory for more types of heavy equipment.

Gallagher said he is hoping that with completion of the Tony Dean report by the College of Trades that “we can get to work on making those other trades mandatory that should be mandatory.”

The changes announced by Labour Minister Flynn amend a regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Specifically, an employer now has to ensure that a worker who operates a rotary foundation drill rig must have completed or is participating in an authorized training program and hold a valid certificate of qualification issued under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. The certificate of qualification needed will depend on the torque of the drill rig.

The operator will also have to have written proof of training available at the project to an inspector upon request.

Labour Minister Flynn said the new requirements will make Ontario a leader on rotary foundation drill rig training.

“The men and the women who operate these machines can do amazing work with this machinery, but we know that drill rigs need to be treated with respect and if they’re not used properly the potential for accidents is there.”

Flynn said the new regulations will ensure that drill rigs in Ontario are used properly and only by qualified operators.

“These changes are going to ensure that anybody working on a drill rig in this province is doing so with full training and as safely as possible.”

George Gritziotis, Ontario’s chief prevention officer, said the changes will have an impact on the construction industry.

“The number of fatalities in our construction industry is still far too high,” he noted. “I am pleased that these new changes enhance training for drill rig operators.”

Local 793 president Joe Redshaw, who is labour chair of the hoisting committee of the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association of Ontario, said strengthening the regulations for operators of rotary drill rigs is a step forward for safety and the regulations will make Ontario a leader in drill rig operator training.

“These new regulations will ensure that only licensed, fully-trained operators are permitted to operate rotary drill rigs. Construction sites in Ontario will be much safer as a result of these regulations.”

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and Local 793 Business Manager Mike Gallagher with workers after new rules for the operation of drill rigs was announced. Minister Kevin Flynn chats to an operator. Labour Minister Kevin Flynn announces new rules for the licensing of drill rig operators in Ontario. Mike Gallagher and Minister Kevin Flynn with workers in Toronto after announcing new rules for licensing drill rig operators in Ontario.