In Canada, more than 40,000 workers get hurt each year because of fall accidents. Fall accidents represent a large percentage of “lost-time injuries” accepted by workers’ compensation boards across Canada. More than just economic loss, falls also cause pain, suffering and, in the worst-case scenario, lost lives.
Workers continue to fall because of these conditions:
— working in areas with poor lighting, slippery walking surfaces and messy housekeeping practices;
— missing guardrails;
— using equipment like ladders or scaffolds that are in poor condition;
— missing or misusing fall-protection equipment;
— failing to understand job procedures;
— neglecting worker training; and
— taking shortcuts while workers rush to meet deadlines.
Falling injuries on the job
Just in Ontario, 10 people died due to workplace falls in 2013. In each case, the workers’ families lost a spouse, a sibling or a child as a result of a usually preventable fall. In the cases in which no one died, workers still suffered critical injuries like broken limbs and backs, cracked ribs and concussions.
All too often, we fail to recognize there is a problem until it’s too late. Don’t expect luck or good fortune to protect you. You risk fall injuries at all workplaces. The only way to stop workers from falling on the job is to identify, assess and control all slip, trip and fall hazards.
It’s against the law
The best method of fall prevention is to get rid of all fall hazards in the workplace in the first place. But this is rarely possible. If you take every reasonable precaution to protect workers, provide information and instruction and ensure that workers properly use or wear any required equipment, you should be following all the occupational health and safety laws. Still, employers, supervisors and workers continue to be prosecuted for not following the law.
A roofing contractor was fined $10,000 and jailed for 90 days when a worker fell 21 feet without fall-arrest equipment.
Another company was fined $100,000 when a worker fell from an unstable ladder and died as the result of his injuries.
What is the employer’s responsibility?
Employers must provide comprehensive fall-protection programs to reduce the risk of injuries. At a minimum, employers should do the following:
— learn about all applicable legislation, codes and standards;
— use safety in work planning;
— find all slip, trip and fall hazards at the workplace;
— put a fall-prevention program in place, including a company policy that outlines rules for housekeeping, lighting, inspections, etc.;
— provide written procedures for tasks involving fall hazards;
— make sure employees know, understand and follow procedures;
— know their health and safety responsibilities and those of their supervisors;
— give appropriate protective equipment to employees and train them in its use;
— evaluate the fall-prevention program to make sure their policies and procedures are working;
— investigate any fall-related incident immediately after it takes place to learn from it and eliminate the cause; and
— document every fall-prevention effort.
Do not let preventable falls happen. Workers aren’t falling because they are accident-prone. They are falling because of poor workplace conditions.
Matrix Labour Leasing is a full-service human-resources agency based in Calgary, specializing in the placement and administration of the skilled-trades workforce all across Canada.