August 12, 2013
Staying out of the danger zone
Safety First | Mike McKenna
WorkSafeBC stats show that 17 per cent of all claims are due to falls, 25 per cent of serious injuries are due to falls and 29 per cent of claims costs are due to falls.
In 2012, WorkSafeBC initiated a six-week targeted enforcement blitz to address fall-protection violations in residential construction and roofing worksites.
Officers issued 1,356 orders and imposed 23 penalties to residential construction employers as a result of those inspections.
Last year, three B.C. construction workers died from falls, but some firms still fail to use adequate fall-protection.
The following are steps that construction employers need to take to protect workers from falling from heights.
1. They must have a fall prevention strategy and plan in place.
2. They must also provide employees with fall prevention personal protective equipment (PPE) and regular fall protection training that covers use, maintenance and inspection of equipment
3. Employers must also have a fall rescue plan and system in place.
Having a fall prevention strategy and plan in place is vitally important to ensuring worker safety.
A worker that survives a fall by using appropriate fall arrest systems doesn’t mean the company has properly ensured their worker’s safety.
The risk of a worker dying because of pressure on their vitals while waiting to be rescued is also a danger and is the reason why having a fall rescue plan in place is critical. However, prevention is key.
The best safety precaution is always to eliminate or substitute the hazard.
If elimination or substitution is not practicable or possible then it is recommended to continue down the safety hierarchy in the following order:
Engineering controls: Physical change to a workplace that would prevent a hazard, for example, manufactured brackets and guard-rail systems;
Administrative controls: Implementation of safe work procedures (i.e. fall plan), change to a policy or procedure or making a change to how the work is being conducted, for example shift work; and
PPE: Including effective fall protection systems. At minimum, this includes Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved hardhats and boots.
It might be necessary to use a combination of all these types of controls.
Companies need to remember that each situation will be unique, with different circumstances that require a specialized plan.
If a company requires help in developing a plan, they can always call us.
We have Regional Safety Advisers with many years experience in the industry, who are here to help.
Fall protection is a complicated issue and one of the most important faced by an employer or worksite supervisor.
With more than 100,000 reported incidents per year, falls from heights almost always result in serious injury.
In the construction industry, falls are the leading cause of worker death.
Falls result in millions of dollars of losses annually in lost work, insurance premiums and liability claims.
A well-designed written fall protection plan and a fall protection rescue plan show that an employer is striving to comply with regulations and can help protect against the economic consequences of an incident including fines, liability and increased insurance costs.
Most important, it reduces worker risk and saves lives.
For more resources on fall prevention visit the BCCSA's Fall Prevention webpage here.
Mike McKenna is the executive director of the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance, the construction industry funded non-profit safety association in British Columbia. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.
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