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People are Falling — Statistics are Not

Falls happen. In Canada some sixty thousand workers get injured annually due to fall accidents. This number represents about fifteen percent of 'lost-time injuries' accepted by workers' compensation boards or commissions across Canada. In addition...

September 1, 2004  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Falls happen. In Canada some sixty thousand workers get injured annually due to fall accidents. This number represents about fifteen percent of ‘lost-time injuries’ accepted by workers’ compensation boards or commissions across Canada. In addition to great economic loss, falls cause pain and suffering, and claim lives.

Despite prevention efforts, workers continue to fall because:

working conditions such as poor lighting, slippery walking surfaces, and poor housekeeping practices exist


protective devices like guardrails are missing

equipment such as ladders and scaffolds are in poor condition or not used properly

fall protection equipment is not available, not used, or is misused

work practices are poor due to unclear job procedures, lack of training for workers and workers rushing and taking short-cuts to meet deadlines

Falling down on the job

Every year in Ontario alone about 20 people die due to workplace falls; one worker fell to his death from a roof, another died after he slipped and fell hitting his head on a concrete floor, and a third suffered a fatal fall 15 feet from a ladder. Each of these workers’ families lost a spouse, brother, sister, son, daughter or parent as a result of the fall. Other workers suffered critical injuries such as broken limbs and backs, cracked ribs and head injuries.

All too often, we fail to recognize there is a problem or a potential problem until someone falls in our workplace, or we hear/read in/on the news that someone else has died or been seriously injured as a result of a workplace fall. Don’t rely on luck or good fortune to protect you. All workplaces have a risk of fall injuries — whether they are same level falls or falls from heights. Unless slip, trip and fall hazards are identified, assessed and controlled, workers will continue falling down on the job.

It’s the law

The ideal method of fall prevention is the elimination of all fall hazards in the workplace. Realistically, this is seldom possible. However, occupational health and safety laws require employers to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers, provide information and instruction, and to ensure that workers properly use or wear any required equipment. Employers, supervisors and workers can be prosecuted for not complying with 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 a result of his injuries.

Employer responsibility

Employers must implement and use comprehensive fall-protection programs to reduce the risk of injuries. At a minimum, employers should:

Become familiar with applicable legislation, codes and standards

Incorporate safety in work planning

Identify all slip, trip and fall hazards at the work site

Put a fall prevention program in place including a company policy that outlines rules for housekeeping, lighting, inspections, etc.

Train employees in recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions — how to clean up spills, use fall protection equipment, install guardrails and use covers on holes in the floor, etc.

Provide written procedures for tasks involving fall hazards

Ensure that employees know, understand and follow procedures

Be clear and vigilant in your health and safety responsibilities, and those of your supervisors — they must ensure that rules are followed

Provide employees with appropriate protective equipment and train them in its use

Continuously evaluate your fall prevention program, ensuring that policies and procedures are working. If not, improve them

If a fall-related incident takes place, investigate it immediately, learn from it, and eliminate the cause

Document all fall prevention efforts

Accidents waiting to happen?

Falls can be prevented. Workers aren’t falling because they are clumsy, careless or accident-prone. Workers are falling because of poor workplace conditions. Close examination of floors, walkways, catwalks, stairs, scaffolds, ladders, truck beds, rail car floors, outdoor yards — and all other working or walking surfaces — will likely reveal hidden slip, trip or fall hazards. The good news is that once they are revealed, they can be controlled. Not falling for it? Call us for a site-specific fall hazard assessment (705 474-7233 ext: 275). If you’re a do-it-yourselfer visit www.pphsa.on.ca for free fall hazard assessment tools.

Cindy Hunter is the Program/Communications Specialist, Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association (PPHSA). PPHSA is a recognized leader in occupational health and safety in the pulp and paper and re- lated industries. Visit them at www.pphsa.on.ca

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