Everyone needs Fall Protection
It was a warm August afternoon, and Jonathan Short was descending a ladder from a roof for what seemed the hundredth time that month. An HVAC technician he had just finished working on a malfunctioning unit. As he made his way down his foot missed a rung causing him to slip and fall the remaining four feet to the ground.
Other than some bruising to his leg and ego Jonathan was unhurt but his story stands as a warning. No matter what your experience level you can fall, and while you might be as lucky as Jonathan was to be so close to the ground, nearly 50,000 workers were injured from falls in 2017 alone, another 60 were killed.
Although fall protection is regulated and required at businesses throughout Canada, both by federal and provincial governments, falls were still the source for one fifth of all workplace accidents in Canada in 2017, a number that goes up to one quarter in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
Nationwide it is required that there be some sort of fall protection in any situation where a fall from three meters or more is possible. The form of protection required depends on the type of hazard or the possible height of the fall and may range from a simple guardrail to a harness with spotters.
Each province provides additional criteria for fall protection. Generally the provincial regulations can be summed up as being situations where injury or death is likely from a shorter fall, placing the onus on businesses to keep workplaces safe.
The places where a fall protection plan may be necessary are varied. There are the obvious places such as roofs or on suspended platforms, but it may also be required while working on step ladders or over holes in the ground.
Although the specifics vary by jurisdiction, generally in order to understand whether a fall protection plan is required there are a few questions that should be asked.
- Are any employees working at a height greater than three meters?
- If they are working at less than three meters, is there anything which would cause a fall to be more likely to cause injury?
- Are there any other hazards in the area?
- Do you have guardrails or other fall protection in place at the edges?
If there are no guardrails, and the potential for falls that are either over 3 meters or have a high chance of causing injury than a fall protection plan should be put in place.
When in doubt about the need for a fall protection plan it is best to consult with the relevant provincial OSHA board.
The fall protection plan should be created by employers with input from supervisors and experienced employees who will be working under the dangerous conditions. The plan should be signed off on by the workers and be made available to them for reference.
In our next post we will be looking at what a fall protection plan should include and give some examples of how differing circumstances can be accounted for.