WorkSafeBC stats show 17 % of all claims are due to falls; 25 % of serious injuries are due to falls; and 29% 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. WorkSafeBC officers issued 1,356 orders and imposed 23 penalties to residential construction employers as a result of these inspections.
Last year 3 BC construction workers died from falls, but some firms still fail to have fall protection programs and training in place, or ensure fall protection is being used properly by workers.
WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO
The following are steps construction employers need to take to protect workers from falling from heights.
- Have a Fall Protection Program in place
- Provide employees with adequate fall protection training that covers use, maintenance and inspection of equipment
- Provide employees with a fall protection system that is practicable as per OHSR section 11.2
- Have a written Fall Protection Plan in place as per OHSR section 11.3 and section 4.13
Having a fall protection plan in place is vitally important to ensuring worker safety. A written fall protection plan is required by regulation when working over 25 ft. In extraordinary circumstances, local fire departments may be able to provide a company with Technical High Angle Rope Rescue, however; it is advised that companies will need to develop their own means of rescue in the fall protection plan.
When a fall protection plan is not required by regulation the employer must still consider the need for rescue or evacuation under OHSR section 4.13. It is critical that a worker who has fallen and is dangling in fall arrest equipment be rescued as quickly as possible. The risk of a worker dying because of pressure on their vitals while waiting to be rescued is also a danger and is in part why having a fall protection plan in place is crucial. 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 hierarchy of controls 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.
Personal Protective Equipment – In addition to regular PPE, fall restraint or fall arrest protection systems can be used to keep a worker from the fall hazard, or stop their fall before they hit the ground. The type of components involved in each system depend on the application and the work site configuration. Someone who is qualified and experienced with fall protection should assess which type of system should be used, and which components are needed.
It is usually necessary to use a combination of all types of controls.
Companies need to remember that each situation will be unique, with different circumstances that will require careful consideration to ensure the safest method will be used.
If a company requires help in developing a plan they can always call us. The BCCSA has Regional Safety Advisors with many years’ experience in the industry who are here to help, free of charge.
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 lost work injuries, higher insurance premiums and liability claims, costing millions of dollars annually.
A well designed written Fall Protection Program is good evidence 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 importantly, it reduces worker risk and saves lives.
- WorkSafeBC Fall Protection Toolboxes
- WorkSafeBC Intro to Personal Fall Protection Equipment handbook
- Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health (American Society of Safety Engineers). Some of the information contained in this resource is specific to American federal OSHA requirements. Please always consult WorkSafeBC for provincial regulations and requirements.