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It’s Armando’s first holiday season working for a large indoor shopping centre. He and his coworker Navid have been tasked with using a scissor lift to hang festive decorations throughout the mall after hours.
Armando isn’t afraid of heights. He’s received training on fall protection equipment and has worked from a different scissor lift model before. But neither he nor Navid are aware of the fall protection plan for this particular situation. The platform on the lift has a non-slip surface and guard rails, but they haven’t had access to inspection and maintenance records, or a briefing on other safety features or operating procedures. They estimate the height they’ll be working at to be about six metres.
Are Armando and Navid set up to work safely?
Fall protection plans outline procedures to safely work at heights, and must be specific to each workplace, site, and job. Start by learning about the requirements for your jurisdiction and how working at heights is defined. Employers are typically required to have a plan in place wherever employees are working at a height of three metres (about 10 feet) or more. This could include ladders, scaffolding, elevated work surfaces, elevating work platforms (e.g., scissor lift), fixed suspended work platforms, swing staging, boatswain's chairs, aerial devices, or suspended equipment. Plans may also be required when performing certain work at heights less than three metres.
Falling from heights is a leading cause of workplace injury and death, so having a plan in place to help prevent it from happening, including thorough training for workers on the use of protective equipment, is key. Should a fall happen, workers need to know who to alert to initiate a rescue and how to ensure emergency services will be dispatched in a timely manner.
Once you have an understanding of what’s required, you’ll need to conduct a hazard assessment. Get input from workers who have direct experience working at heights as well as those whose work will be most impacted. If your workplace has a health and safety committee or representative, consult them in the plan’s development. Be sure to include procedures to follow during emergencies and fall rescues.
Fall protection plans should include site-specific instructions for all areas or situations where there is a risk of falling. Consider areas workers might not fall to the ground, but into water or other liquid, into or onto a hazardous substance or object, or through an opening in a work surface. What controls should be in place to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of these falls? Is there another way to perform the task safer or from ground level?
Determine if jobs need to be delayed due to weather conditions, such as high winds or storms if work is done outside, or to install safety features such as anchorage points or guard rails.
Inspect and take an inventory of all equipment used by workers. It should be stable and in good repair. Floors in work areas should be clean and dry wherever possible. Fall protection and personal protective equipment should be prescribed, available, maintained in good condition, and used as instructed.
Ensure all employees who work at heights receive training on equipment use and hazard identification for each site. Review the control measures in place to make sure they are appropriate and make improvements where needed. Policies, procedures and training should be updated regularly.
There’s a lot to consider when undertaking a fall protection plan, which is why it should be a collaborative and consultative process. The plan should outline the policy and procedures involved in assembling, maintaining, inspecting, using, and dismantling equipment such as ladders, scaffolds, or platforms, as well as any specific fall protection equipment. It should take into account site location and site-specific fall hazards (e.g., maximum height(s), roof slope if applicable, proximity to power lines, ground cover).
Are there any other requirements before beginning work, such as the presence of first aid or rescue personnel, the use of other safety equipment or barricades? Remember to include those as well and get worker signoff.
In the case of falls that are arrested, a worker often remains suspended in the air and needs to be rescued by others. In other situations, the worker could have injuries that require first-aid. A rescue plan will detail how to return fallen workers to a place of safety while keeping rescuers safe.
Like other forms of emergency planning, it is essential that everyone understands their role and what they must do after a fall. Before beginning the work, discuss the situation with local emergency services to see if they can assist when there is a need to rescue a fallen worker. Leaving a worker suspended for a long period of time can be dangerous to their health and safety.
Designated rescuers must be adequately trained and have easy access to all the equipment they need to rescue others safely and as quickly as possible.
Employers are responsible for developing a thorough fall protection plan, providing fall and personal protection equipment that is in good working order, and ensuring employees at all levels have through training. Training should include how to identify and alert supervisors to hazards, the inspection and maintenance of protective equipment, and how to use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Employers must also provide training for workers on how to initiate a rescue plan in the event of an emergency, as well as specific training for workers designated to lead rescues.
An important part of a supervisor’s role is ensuring workers follow all regulations for the workplace’s jurisdiction. They should have thorough knowledge of their workplace’s fall protection policy and procedures so they can keep workers informed about fall hazards, the use and wear of fall protection equipment, and how to work safely at heights. When workers identify hazards or have safety concerns about specific situations, the supervisor has a duty to escalate those concerns to the employer, and to pause work until concerns have been addressed.
Workers’ active participation in fall protection education and training will help them to identify hazards, use, inspect and maintain their personal protective and fall protection equipment, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. If they haven’t been thoroughly prepared to work at heights or there is imminent danger, workers have the right to refuse unsafe work.
Armando carefully considers the task and the equipment to be used. He realizes there is one more critical step needed before he and Navid can start work: both will need training on the fall protection plan for this specific situation. They opt to get started on the work they can do from the ground and have their supervisor get them up to speed when she arrives in half an hour.
Using consumer chemicals in the workplace isn’t the same as using them at home. Prolonged and routine exposure presents health risks and hazards to workers when using these products as part of their job. To keep them safe and minimize risk when using consumer chemicals, employers need to provide them with education and training.
People buy consumer chemical products for all kinds of uses. Painting walls, cleaning the bathroom, repairing a crack in the chair – these activities are accomplished with the help of paints, cleaning supplies, and adhesives that are readily available at retail stores or online suppliers. But just like industrial chemicals, they can be dangerous and cause burns, fires, poisonings, and explosions if not handled safely.
Consumer chemicals are labelled with the idea that these products are intended to be used occasionally and for short periods, such as household cleaning or fixing items. For this reason, their labels indicate the possible immediate health effects. However, if a consumer chemical product is used to clean a workplace, or when an individual is employed as a cleaner, the worker may be exposed to the product many hours a day, every day, making the risk of health effects greater.
Workplace hazardous products, on the other hand, are intended for frequent and long-term use in the workplace. They are required to have Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) labels and safety data sheets that provide important information to protect workers’ health and safety including possible health effects due to frequent and long-term exposure.
When consumer products are used in the workplace, employers are legally required to provide workers with education and training on health risks, handling, use, storage, safe work practices, emergency response, and first aid. If workers use both consumer products and WHMIS hazardous products, they will need to understand both the consumer symbols and WHMIS pictograms.
CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.
New Podcast: Keeping Workers Safe from Radon
Radon exposure is a leading cause of lung cancer among workers in Canada. Dr. Cheryl Peters of CAREX Canada discusses the testing process, a common misconception people have, and how employers can keep workers safe from radon.
Podcast runs 6:03 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Podcast: Don't Rush into Winter Driving
Harsh winter conditions can appear out of nowhere. When they do, many drivers may get caught off-guard. No matter how many winters you’ve driven through, it’s always a good idea to take some time to prepare before heading out into the elements, keeping in mind some safe driving advice.
Podcast runs 3:41 minutes. Listen to the podcast now
New COVID-19 Resources
Many organizations and businesses across the country are taking steps to re-open during COVID-19. Given that we are still in a pandemic, you need to consider many factors when developing a plan to ensure the health and safety of workers and customers. You also need to maintain your COVID-19 workplace controls, no matter how many of your workers are vaccinated, until public health restrictions in your area are reduced. And in all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and jurisdictional health and safety regulators must be followed.
CCOHS has developed two free online courses to help you prepare your workplace and employees for a safe return to work:
Additional resources on safely returning to work during a pandemic:
Get more tip sheets and other guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month’s highlights include an amendment to the Canada Labour Code, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in British Columbia, and changes in Quebec respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.
Canada Labour Code (Part III): S.C. 2021, c. 17 came into force 29/09/21 making an amendment to subsection 210(1) that extends by five unpaid days, the period of bereavement leave to which an employee is entitled and expands eligibility for the leave to include employees who, at the time a family member dies, are on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness in respect of the deceased person.
Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Workers Compensation Act): B.C. Reg. 139/2021 came into force 01//09/21 making very extensive amendments throughout. Appendix A amends various definitions in Section 6.70; repeals and replaces Section 6.76 Informing workers; repeals and replaces Sections 6.89 to 6.91; and, more. Appendix B repeals and replaces Section 8.24 High visibility apparel. Appendix C repeals and replaces subsection 8.11(1). Appendix D adds new Section 12.17.1 Safeguards for objects or materials; repeals and replaces Section 12.91 Self-propelled rock drills; repeals and replaces entire Part 16 – Mobile Equipment; replaces subsection 17.10(1) regarding vehicle design; adds subsection 26.12.1(3); adds Section 26.17.1 Brakes, Section 26.54.1 Damaged sweep arm; adds Section 28.6.1 Rollover risk; repeals Section 26.77 Assistance on steep grades; repeals Sections 28.33 to 28.42 and 28.49; repeals and replaces Section 28.50 Transportation of workers; repeals Sections 31.30 and 31.31; and, more.
Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases: S.Q. 2021, c. 13 makes minor wording changes to Section 448 to 451; removes paragraph 3 in Section 478 and repeals Section 578.
For more information regarding recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety, and environmental legislation you need in one location.
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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.
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