Working at great heights is a major safety management challenge within the construction industry. In addition to people falls, falling objects are a serious issue. Even small objects can be dangerous. Think about a five-pound object falling from 100 feet above ground — that’s 1,252 pounds of force.

How do you effectively reduce the risk of falling objects? By coming together as an industry to uphold the highest safety standards. PCL Toronto’s team on the 11 Yorkville project is pulling out all the stops to foster a safety-first culture and proactively prevent falling objects.

The 62-storey luxe residential tower in the heart of Toronto’s one-of-a-kind Yorkville district is known for its vibrant atmosphere. The project is currently being constructed immediately adjacent to high-end residential buildings, two active construction sites and one of Toronto’s oldest and most active fire stations, with hundreds of pedestrians walking the streets each day.

During project planning, PCL identified a number of systems that were necessary to maintain the project schedule and construct the tower as safely as possible. Two of these systems are the rail climbing system and automatic climbing system.

The rail climbing system encloses the perimeter of the building. It has an extended work platform to prevent falls from heights while also protecting workers from wind, offering comfort to those working at the edge of the work surface.

The automatic climbing system provides a fully boarded work platform around the project’s elevator core for workers to pour and place concrete. The system further enhances safety and maximizes efficiency as it limits the need for using the tower crane and manual labour to move and close the walls.

“A large aspect of PCL’s safety culture is anticipating risks and preventing them before they occur. To avoid potential safety hazards, we developed an in-depth strategy early in the planning phase,” says Jeff Anttila, PCL Toronto project manager. “Having clients like RioCan REIT, Metropia and Capital Developments see the importance of protective systems supports PCL’s ability to prioritize the safety of the workforce and community at all times.”

Also, to stop objects from falling, the project team has implemented tool and material securement processes and safe work practices, including the mandatory use of tool tethers, control access zones below working-at-heights activities and end-of-day material inspection checklists. To protect pedestrians from potential falling objects, the project team and ownership group have worked together to fully close off select sidewalks directly around the project.

Watch safety innovation in action at 11 Yorkville.

As most partners on this project have not worked with PCL before, the project team is dedicated to training them on the company’s rigorous safety program and processes.

Through continual coaching and mentoring, on top of formal and informal health, safety and environment inspection processes, the team led its trade partners to elevate their safety performance to meet PCL’s requirements, resulting in more than 100,000 trade hours worked without a lost-time injury in 2022. This includes high-risk trades such as trenching, excavation and site works, as well as heavy equipment.

The project introduced a monthly safety recognition program to recognize workers who are observed performing their tasks in a safe manner, which helps generate awareness of PCL’s safety priorities and enhances its safety program.

“We all play a critical role in safety, and it takes commitment from everyone to effectively prevent falling objects on our job site,” says Ryan Thomas, senior superintendent. “Everyone on the job site takes action to ensure the site is a safe environment for those in and around it.”

In recognition of the commitment to HSE excellence and outstanding safety performance, the project won PCL Toronto’s internal Tom Erger Safety Award in 2022. The coveted annual award recognizes an entire project team’s dedication and commitment toward the fundamentals of the HSE program and processes, and PCL’s goal of zero incidents.

The award was created in 2001 in honour of Tom Erger, PCL Toronto’s safety and loss prevention manager in the ’90s, whose legacy changed PCL’s approach to safety.

“Tom was a pioneer of our safety program as it is today, and winning the Tom Erger Award is a testament to the project team’s unwavering commitment to safety,” says David Molinaro, HSE supervisor. “All our projects do a tremendous job in trying to achieve the award. The buy-in our team has received from the owner and trade partners was fundamental in building the strong safety culture on our job site.”

“Safety is at the core of everything we do, and it is amazing to see our project team, client and trade partners collaborating to find innovative ways to improve our safety practices,” says Marc Pascoli, senior vice president and district manager. “Only together can we proactively prevent falling objects in order to protect our community, both on the job site and within the cities we build.”

Read more about the heightened need for the construction industry to come together to prevent falling objects.