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Falls from all sources, including ladders, are the second largest cause of accidental death in Canada. Ladders are involved in about 2% of all occupational accidents in industrialized countries. That means about one in every 2000 workers each year will have a serious injury, one that could be prevented with training and proper equipment.
Most falls are traceable to three main problems: the wrong ladder was used; the ladder failed because it was in bad shape or the condition of the surface failed to support the ladder; or the ladder was misused.
In Canada, new ladders are approved by the Canadian Standards Association and rated for how much load they can carry, i.e. heavy, medium, or light, and for usage - industrial, trade or household. Most ladders in current use are made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass. If you work around electricity, do not use an aluminum ladder, as it will conduct electricity.
A ladder must be selected carefully, used properly, cleaned, and maintained in good condition. Ladders don't last forever and should be looked over thoroughly before each use for signs of wear: weakened or twisted frames, loose rungs or hardware, worn out anti-slip plastic or rubber 'shoes'. This inspection is required regardless of the type of ladder you are working with whether it is straight, extension, step, platform, articulated or fixed.
Choosing the right ladder is the first step to safety
Straight and extension ladders are to be used against a wall, and normally for outdoor work. These ladders need to be placed very carefully; wrong setup is the single largest source of accidents. If the ladder slips at the base, you will fall. Place the ladder on clear level ground free of ice, snow, water and sand. The angle is extremely important with 75-80 degrees, the rule. To achieve this slant, the distance from the bottom of the ladder to the surface it leans against should be a quarter of the ladder's extended height. Don't climb above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. If the ladder is used to access a flat roof for instance, it should rise about 1 metre or 3 feet above that surface.
Stepladders are common in workplaces and handy around the house, while larger metal platform ladders are used in warehouses and industrial locations where good stability and a large flat work surface are needed. The spreader arms must be locked in the open position with all four legs evenly grounded. Stay off the top two rungs of a stepladder and use your knees for balance by resting them against the ladder. Never stand on top of the ladder or on the paint shelf. If you need a straight ladder, don't try and make a closed stepladder do the job.
Fixed ladders adhere to the sides of buildings, tanks, and towers and must be equipped with a safety cage if there is a drop of more than ten feet or 3 metres.
Get a grip
There are several rules for safely working on a properly set-up ladder. Always have three-point contact with the ladder. This means having two (well-shod) feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot in contact with the ladder at all times. When climbing up and down, face the ladder and hold on to the rungs, not the side rails. If you do slip you will have a better grasp.
Accidents tend to happen when carrying materials up the ladder. Use a hoist rope or work belt to get tools and equipment up to you. And stay centred; another big cause of falls is loss of balance from reaching out. Keep your weight in the middle of the frame. Be mindful that your belt buckle should not go beyond the side rails. If you do get dizzy, rest your head on a rung then climb down slowly. Speed is definitely not of the essence when using any ladder.
CCOHS E-Course on Ladder Safety
More on Ladder Safety from CCOHS' OSH Answers
Accident Alert from the Workers' Compensation Board of BC
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended, since 1978, that workers not wear contact lenses when working with chemicals that can irritate or harm the eyes. In recent years, however, several groups (including the American Optometric Association, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Chemical Society, and Prevent Blindness America) have issued new guidelines that remove most of the previous restrictions on the wearing of contact lenses where there is risk of chemical exposure.
Given the new guidelines, and because there is a lack of data indicating that contact lens wear is harmful in the presence of hazardous chemicals, NIOSH has issued a Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) to disseminate new scientific information and make new recommendations.
NIOSH recommends that workers be permitted to wear contact lenses when handling hazardous chemicals, provided that these safety guidelines are followed:
- Conduct an eye injury hazard evaluation in the workplace that includes an assessment of chemical exposures (as required by OSHA's personal protective equipment standard [29 CFR * 1910.132]); contact lens wear; and appropriate eye and face protection for contact lens wearers.
The eye injury hazard evaluation should be conducted by a competent, qualified person such as a certified industrial hygienist, a certified safety professional, or a toxicologist.
- Provide suitable eye and face protection for all workers exposed to eye injury hazards, regardless of contact lens wear.
- Establish a written policy documenting general safety requirements for wearing contact lenses, including the eye and face protection required and any contact lens wear restrictions by work location or task.
- Comply with current OSHA regulations on contact lens wear and eye and face protection.
- Notify workers and visitors about any defined areas where contact lenses are restricted.
- Identify to supervisors all contact lens wearers working in chemical environments to ensure that the proper hazard assessment is completed and the proper eye protection and first aid equipment are available.
- Train medical and first aid personnel in the removal of contact lenses and have the appropriate equipment available.
- In the event of a chemical exposure, begin eye irrigation immediately and remove contact lenses as soon as practical. Do not delay irrigation while waiting for contact lens removal.
- Instruct workers who wear contact lenses to remove the lenses at the first signs of eye redness or irritation. Contact lenses should be removed only in a clean environment after the workers have thoroughly washed their hands.
- Evaluate restrictions on contact lens wear on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the visual requirements of individual workers as recommended by a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist.
These recommendations are for work with chemical hazards. They do not address hazards from heat, radiation, or high-dust or high-particulate environments. NIOSH recommends these measures provided that contact lenses are not banned by regulation or made not advisable by medical or industrial recommendations.
Read the Current Intelligence Bulletin from NIOSH
Obtain more info on first aid for chemical exposures in CCOHS' The MSDS - A Practical Guide to First Aid
Read the OSH Answers on contact lenses at work
Read the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Guideline on: The Use of Contact Lenses in an Industrial Environment
It's a sad fact that workers are sometimes at risk of encountering a hostile and potentially dangerous person on the job. While the threat of physical or emotional assault has existed as long as humans have, there is good news: the occupational health and safety community, the law, and employers are recognizing that all forms of violence - even the less obvious, emotional kind - are unacceptable in the workplace.
No worker should have to fear, or be in danger of, any form of abuse, threat, intimidation or assault on the job. The definition of workplace violence encompasses much more than physical acts such as hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking. Other unacceptable acts include threatening behaviour, such as shaking one's fists or throwing or destroying objects; expressing, verbally or in writing, an intent to inflict harm; any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person; swearing, insults, and condescending language.
While recognition is the first step toward addressing the issue of workplace violence, management commitment is the most important component of any prevention program. The best way for management to state that commitment is through a written policy.
Developed by management and employee representatives, the policy states, in clear language, your organization's view toward workplace violence and its commitment to the prevention of workplace violence.
The policy must define workplace violence in precise, concrete language and provide clear examples of unacceptable behaviour and working conditions, precisely stating the consequences of making threats or committing violent acts. It must state any applicable regulatory requirements, and be applicable to managers, employees, clients, independent contractors and anyone who has a relationship with your company.
A workplace violence prevention policy must encourage reporting of all incidents of violence, describing how employees can confidentially report incidents, and to whom. It should include detailed procedures for investigating and resolving complaints. Management must assure employees in the policy, that there will be no reprisals against them for reporting incidents.
The policy is a vehicle for management to make certain commitments, such as communicating information about the risks of violence to employees; developing preventive measures; offering a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to employees; providing support services to victims of violence; providing violence prevention training to staff; and regularly monitoring and reviewing the violence prevention policy.
Having a written policy about workplace violence lets employees know what behaviour (violence, intimidation, bullying, harassment, or other) the organization considers inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace. It outlines what to do in case of an incident, and lists contacts for reporting incidents.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers more information about what work-related factors increase the risk of violence, which occupational groups tend to be most at risk, how to assess whether your workplace is at risk, and examples of preventive measures, and specific violence prevention legislation in Canada.
Watch for two new e-learning courses from CCOHS: "Violence in the Workplace - Recognize the Problem" and "Violence in the Workplace - Take Action, coming in the Spring 2006.
Read the OSH Answers on workplace violence
CCOHS' Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide
For those working in marine safety, the Marine Inspectors' Bookshelf on CD-ROM is an invaluable tool, especially to those aboard ships and in remote areas without Internet access. Previously, it was impractical to carry around print publications, and getting accurate information was very time consuming. Recognizing the need to make information accessible to these workers, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and Transport Canada Marine Safety collaborated to develop a customized CD-ROM of information, which can be accessed anytime, and anywhere there is computer access.
With over 11,000 documents, the Marine Inspectors' Bookshelf is a comprehensive collection of publications, forms, legislation and standards, contacts and related resources - essential information all in one source. Most documents are available in both English and French and users can choose to work in either language. Finding specific information on the CD is simple - you can either pick a category, such as Marine Safety Publications, and browse the listing, or search across the entire collection. Updated twice a year, the Marine Inspectors' Bookshelf is now in its 7th release.
The Marine Inspectors' Bookshelf has been well received and its users offer high praise.
"The inspector bookshelf .. is the best tool I have seen in a long time. It provides quick reference to an incredible amount of information. I hope the inspectors out there will learn to use it to its full extent." Berthier Pineau, Ottawa. It is also the default reference tool used by the Transport (Canada Marine) National Training Program when conducting courses for the training of Marine Inspectors.
Nominated in 2004 for a GTEC (Government Technology) award in the category entitled "Enhancing Government Operations", the Marine Inspectors' Bookshelf is a prime example of how CCOHS and its partners in Marine Safety have worked together to create an innovative and proven solution to improving access to information.
CCOHS has an extensive track record of collaborating with partners to customize and develop products and services that meet their specific health and safety information, resource and training needs.
What can and should be done about occupational disease? Canadians have strong opinions on the subject, and hundreds had their say in a recent survey by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). A document just released on the CCOHS website, Recognizing and Preventing Occupational Disease: Strategies and Recommendations from Canadians, presents the survey results.
In March 2005, CCOHS hosted a two-day forum, "New Strategies for Recognizing and Preventing Occupational Disease," which featured expert speakers, a panel of representatives from government, employer and labour, as well as interactive sessions in which delegates could voice their opinions. Participants worked in small groups to generate ideas and strategies in five areas of occupational disease: musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive strain injuries (MSDs/RSIs); stress; infectious diseases; respiratory diseases; and occupational cancer. This led to approximately 125 recommendations for improving the recognition of occupational disease, prevention and exposure control strategies, and practical tools and approaches to help prevent injuries and illness.
Forum participants voted on these recommendations and, after the Forum, CCOHS posted the recommendations on a dedicated website as a series of surveys and invited all Canadians to vote on them. CCOHS received 911 additional submissions and a total of approximately 17,000 votes from Canadians on the subject of occupational disease.
CCOHS set out to achieve an open, national dialogue on occupational disease that would be more than just a 'sharing and caring' exercise. The objective was to make the Forum results-oriented, with a focus on identifying possible solutions that could potentially lead to the eradication of work-related illness in Canada.
The findings vary considerably according to which stakeholder group the participants represent (Government, Employers, Labour or Other) and range from general to specific. The CCOHS document gives a detailed breakdown of the recommendations and describes how they ranked in both the Forum survey and the broader, Canada-wide web survey.
The number of recommendations might seem overwhelming, however such widespread discussion is a positive indication that occupational disease is a priority issue for working Canadians and their government, employer and labour representatives.
Click here to download the survey results in the CCOHS document: Recognizing and Preventing Occupational Disease: Strategies and Recommendations from Canadians.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2016, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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