Canadian Occupational Safety

September/October 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 17 of 51

F E A T U R E 18 LANDING ON YOUR FEET In this issue's PPE focus, two experts weigh in on the topic of fall protection. Who needs it? And what equipment is essential to keeping workers as safe as possible? THE Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) defines working at heights as "any work where a person could fall a distance and be injured. This event might include, for example, falling from a step ladder, off of a roof, or through an unguarded hole in the ground or floor. Fall protection may also be required when working above an open top tank, bin, hopper, or vat." Although the exact number may vary depending on each province, OHS laws generally require some kind of action when a worker has the potential to fall about three metres (10 feet), says the CCOHS. Legislation is typically updated every few years — every three to five years on average, says Erica Cole, product manager at Pure Safety Group. These legal updates are mandatory, but there are voluntary standards as well. One of the major fall protection standards in Canada is CSA Z259.17-16. There are subcategories and subcomponents of that standard that address each component in a fall arrest system: amount of risk that we are collectively willing to accept in a particular discipline or industry," adds Henn. Fall protection in numbers According to the CCOHS, 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall accidents in Canada. Sixty-seven per cent of falls happen on the same level (slips and trips), while the remaining 30 per cent are falls from heights. Fall incidents represented 18 per cent of "time-loss injuries" in 2016 as per the connecting devices, anchors and body wear such as harnesses. In the U.S., there are different trigger heights depending on the activity, says Dan Henn, vice president of operations at Reliance Fall Protection. "In general industry, we generally expect anybody who is subject to a fall of four feet or greater to be protected in some manner," he says. "In most construction environments, that trigger height is about six feet." Trigger heights are "predicated on the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada. In 2017, there were 887 fall fatalities in the United States and 227,760 injuries. Of that number, more than half were on the same level. Indeed, one doesn't need to fall a tremendous distance for there to be a potential for a serious impact. In 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 per cent of fatal falls were from elevations of less than six feet. There are several requirements for those working at heights and a broad spectrum of equipment that is understood as fall protection. Nevertheless, lack of or inadequate fall protection remains a huge issue in North America. In 2013, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) stated that fall protection was the most cited workplace safety violation in the United States, tallying in at 8,241 violations, ahead of hazard communication (6,156) and scaffolding (5,423). A number of companies in Canada have received fall protection fines in the last year or so relating to lack of or inadequate fall protection: In March 2019, M K Construction was fined $20,000 after exposing a worker to a fall risk of up to 6.1 metres; in April 2019, Cybertech Controls and Electric was fined $70,000 after a worker fell through a ceiling; in August 2019, roofing company Navco Construction was fined $13,179 after workers were exposed to fall risk; in November 2019, landscape firm PattyMac was fined $56,250 after a worker was injured falling from a ladder; and, in January 2020, Thunder Creek Pork was fined $60,000 after a worker was injured after falling from a trailer and landing on a cement floor. So, who needs fall protection? And when? "Fall protection is equipment designed to prevent you from falling or protect you if you actually fall. The benefit is if you fall you will not sustain severe injury," says Cole. "Anytime where we have the ability to fall to a lower level is typically when we're going to be looking at implementing some type of fall protection system," says Henn. "A lot of people, when they think about fall protection, they immediately go to the construction industry," says Cole, "but there are other industries as well — and not only industry, but just regular, everyday people that are working." "Fall hazards exist in virtually every "Fall hazards exist in virtually every imaginable workplace and, quite frankly, in most residences, if we consider the act of cleaning out one's gutters or hanging up the Christmas lights." Dan Henn, vice president of operations at Reliance Fall Protection

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