A painter slips from a 6ft. scaffold, hitting a cement floor and is critically injured. A roofer falls backwards from a second story roof onto the parking lot and is killed. Falls from heights such as these are responsible for serious, long-term injuries and are a leading cause of death on construction sites. Workers in a number of industries and trades are exposed to the dangers of working at heights.
For construction workers, roofers, window cleaners, painters, arborists and firefighters, working at heights is a part of their daily work experience. Avoiding the risk of falling from ladders, scaffolds, lifts, buckets, mast climbers, roofs, balconies and trees requires safety diligence by both worker and employer.
Falls from height can occur as a result of a complex chain of events or during the simple acts of walking or climbing a step ladder. It doesn't take more than a few feet of height to create the conditions for a critical accident.
OSHA (the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration) identifies falls as the leading cause of death in construction. In the US, there were 294 fall fatalities out of a total of 796 fatalities in construction in 2013. By comparison, there were 221 construction fatalities in Canada in 2013 and the number of fall fatalities is not available.
Some of the reasons why workers fall include:
- Protective devices like guardrails are missing
- Fall protection equipment is not available, not used or misused
- Equipment like ladders and scaffolds are in poor condition or not used properly
- Lack of training for workers
Fall protection must be used when working at heights. This protection can include the use of guardrails to prevent workers from falling, or fall restraint systems that prevent workers from travelling to the edge of a building or structure if the use of guardrails is not possible. Fall arrest systems must be used whenever a fall restraint system isn't practicable. Fall arrest systems stop workers in mid-fall, preventing them from hitting the surface below. Examples include safety nets and full body harnesses attached by lifelines to secure anchors. Control zones can be used in certain cases. Control zones involve setting raised warning lines at a safe distance - 2 metres (6.5 ft.) - from unguarded edges.
Workers need training to understand the proper set-up and safe use of the specific equipment they will be using. This training includes hazard recognition and in care and safe use of ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they'll be using on the job.
The right equipment
Workers who are two meters (6ft.) or more above the level below are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the appropriate kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear.
For roof work, there are many ways to prevent falls. If personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are used, provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits, and regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it's in good condition and safe to use. If you are at risk of falling from a significant height or if a fall from a lesser height could put you at unusual risk of injury, wear the appropriate fall protection equipment. Check the legislation in your jurisdiction to ensure you are in compliance as the regulated minimum heights and requirements for fall protection vary.
When work is done from heights, such as ladders, scaffolds, and roofs, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely. The plan should start with deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment will be needed to complete each task.
Employers should plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the work site. For example, in a roofing job, where fall hazards could include holes and leading edges, plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as PFAS. In some cases a written plan is required. Requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Ensure everyone is properly trained. Before a worker is allowed into an area where a risk of falling exists, employers must ensure workers are trained to know which fall protection equipment must be used and in the safe use of that equipment. Some jurisdictions in Canada have specific training requirements.
Safely working at heights is the responsibility of employers and workers. Proper training and fall protection can help minimize the risk and prevent falls.
- Working at Heights e-course, CCOHS
- Falls from Heights in Construction Accident Alert, WorkSafeBC
- Preventing Falls from Heights through the Design of Embedded Safety Features, PDF, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign, OSHA
- Platforms fact sheet, CCOHS
- Body Belts, Harnesses, and Lanyards fact sheet, CCOHS
A machine operator in British Columbia had his hands crushed after he accidentally activated the unguarded press brake using the pedal control. The worker was using an unguarded press brake to bend and shape the top of a metal firebox to be used as part of a gas fireplace insert. When attempting the second bend, he experienced some difficulty lining up the work piece in the bottom die.
When the worker placed both hands between the top and bottom dies to adjust the work piece, he inadvertently activated the press brake using the pedal control, causing the top die to activate and lower rapidly onto both of his hands, trapping them between the top and bottom dies.
WorkSafeBC investigated the incident and identified the cause as no point-of-operation safeguarding. They published an investigation report to help prevent future accidents resulting from the use of unguarded machinery.
The worker was able to place his hands into the point of operation between the dies of a press brake only because there was no point-of-operation safeguarding on the machine to prevent it. The worker then inadvertently operated the pedal control, which was missing a guard. This activated the press brake, causing it to cycle. The worker suffered crushing injuries to both hands.
The investigation also identified the following underlying factors:
- There was a lack of safe work procedures provided to workers using the press brakes. As a result, workers were not trained to safely operate the machines.
- The employer did not ensure that workers using the press brakes were effectively trained and adequately supervised.
- The employer did not perform a point-of-operation safeguarding risk assessment and implement appropriate point-of-operation safeguarding to protect workers using the press brakes.
- The employer did not implement an effective health and safety program.
Crushed hands are just one example of a machinery-related injury. Every moving part represents a potential hazard, and these hazards must be controlled or eliminated. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers.
Read the Investigation Report from WorkSafeBC
General requirements for all safeguards, work.alberta.ca (Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour)
Safeguarding In Manufacturing, WorkSafeBC
Z432-04 (R2014) - Safeguarding of Machinery, CSA Standard
Every year, for one week, health and safety takes centre stage. This year, North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, May 3-9, hopes to make safety a habit. NAOSH Week is a great opportunity to bring family and coworkers together to participate in events that support and promote the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.
Webinars, Twitter Chats and our own It's Your Job Youth Video Contest Film fest are just some of the events and ideas that you can use to celebrate the week and promote your own health and safety goals in your workplace.
May 2, 2015
Steps for Life: 5km Walk
Every year the Steps for Life Walk kicks off NAOSH Week. The 5km walks are held in communities across Canada and support the work of Threads of Life, an organization that supports the families of workplace tragedies. Look for a Steps for Life walk in your area and form a team at work or walk with friends and family. Support the important work that Threads of Life does to raise awareness of workplace health and safety as well as offer comfort and support to those affected by work related injuries and deaths.
May 4, 2015
National Launch: Saskatoon, SK
The NAOSH Week 2015 national launch is being hosted in Saskatoon and will feature the first annual Amazing Safety Quest competition, a fun, hands-on and interactive activity to encourage new and young Saskatchewan workers to make safety a habit at the start of their careers, as well as keynote speaker Greg Johnson, Storm-Chaser and Severe Weather Expert.
In addition, the winner of the National Youth Video Contest, selected by a judging panel, will be announced and the winning video shown at the National Launch.
May 2 - May 10 inclusive
It's Your Job Youth Video Contest: Fan Favourite Voting
The judges pick the overall winner of the national video contest however YOU pick the fan favourite. During all of NAOSH Week you can view and then vote for your favourite youth video from a tab on the CCOHS Facebook page. You can vote once a day and no Facebook registration is required.
All winners (from the national contest and the fan favourite vote) will be highlighted on the Young Workers Zone.
Tuesday, May 5 1-1:30 pm EDT
Ages and Stages: Working Safely and Well Together - free webinar
Find out what your organization needs to keep in mind when developing workplace health and safety orientation, health communication and related programs, so that everyone, at any age or stage, can stay safe and well and succeed at work.
Get together with your colleagues and take part in this webinar hosted by CCOHS Senior Technical Specialist Jan Chappel. A recorded version will be available for later viewing. Register at http://www.ccohs.ca/products/webinars/ages/
Thursday, May 7 1-1:30 pm EDT
Twitter Chat - Ages and Stages: Working Safely and Well Together
The conversation continues on Thursday with a Twitter Chat. Bring your thoughts, experiences and ideas to share in this engaging online discussion. With Jessie Callaghan, CCOHS Senior Technical Specialist http://twubs.com/CCOHSchat
Healthy Workplaces: A Team Effort - free recorded webinar
Thinking about starting a healthy workplace team at your workplace. This webinar is for you. Join Laurie Tirone as she recounts the development of the Healthy Workplace Team here at CCOHS.
Presenter: Laurie Tirone, Senior Account Manager and leader of the Health Workplace Team, CCOHS Length: 30 minutes
How CCOHS is Celebrating
Here at CCOHS we are celebrating NAOSH Week with a Film fest of the winning entries of the Youth Video contest from all over Canada. On Wednesday May 6th our staff is invited to drop in to our converted meeting room "theatre" to munch on popcorn and cupcakes and watch the videos before they vote for their Fan Favourite on Facebook. Popcorn and door prizes will be provided, and hopefully some helpful messages will be shared.
About NAOSH Week
NAOSH Week strives to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public, and all workplace safety and health partners on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community. NAOSH Week is led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), and Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). NAOSH Week continues to be a truly continent-wide event, celebrated in Canada, along with North American partners in the United States and Mexico.
For more ideas and information about NAOSH Week, visit the website.
Choose from a list of recorded webinars for your own event.
Find a complete list of all CCOHS podcasts.
Download posters to promote important messages.
Find a Steps for Life Walk, in support of families of workplace tragedies, in your community.
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts include a discussion with CCOHS President Steve Horvath on new and young workers, and on overcoming a workplace injury.
Feature Podcast: New and Young Workers with Steve HorvathIn a candid interview, Steve Horvath, President and CEO at CCOHS discusses the subject of new and young workers. What makes them vulnerable and how can we keep them safe on the job?
The podcast runs 22:14 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Podcast 2: Wally Power: Overcoming a Workplace InjuryWally Power, Threads for Life (Fil de Vie) Board Member, sits down with CCOHS to share his story of how he was injured on the job as a young worker. Wally also discusses how the experience impacted him and his family, as well as the lessons he wishes to pass down to future generations of workers.
The podcast runs 3:45 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Tell us what you think.
We welcome your feedback and story ideas.
Connect with us.
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.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Length: 6:00 minutes
April 3-4, 2017
April 10-11, 2017
April 18-20, 2017
Apr. 27-28, 2017
April 28, 2017
Locations Across Canada
May 2-3, 2017
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May 7-13, 2017
June 1-3, 2017