Monday, March 18, 2013

Slips, Trips and Falls?

Slips, Trips and Falls?

Facility audits can determine if your workplace is safe

Losing a loved one due to an occupational accident just isn't fair. Unsafe work practices, unsafe workplaces and lack of proper training are key reasons for accidents in the workplace. Every one of us must take a closer look at our workplace to ensure the safety of all workers. A ladder without anti-slip feet, mezzanines without railings and improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are just a few of the often overlooked hazards.

On September 29th, 2000, Constable John Petropoulos of the Calgary Police Service was not so lucky; neither was his family. Cst. Petropoulos responded to a break-and-enter call at a local warehouse. He went up to the mezzanine to investigate and stepped from a safe surface directly onto a false ceiling. He fell nine feet into the lunchroom below because there were no guardrails in place and succumbed to a brain injury.

This could easily happen to someone close to you.

On January 17, 2007, a young worker employed by an Ontario roofing company died after he fell over 42 metres (140 feet) from a roof canopy. The investigation found that the worker was wearing a full body harness but it was not connected to any anchor or fixed support at the time of the incident. The roofing company was fined $150,000 and two individuals of the firm were convicted for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).

Throughout Ontario, in the case of the majority of completed facility safety and health audits, unsafe mezzanine, working and storage surfaces and non-guarded raised structures were identified as not meeting the minimum requirements under the OHSA and building codes. The situation is likely similar in other provinces. These structures raise risk of accidents due to slips, trips and falls and other structural concerns from improper or unsafe access, no guard rails, improper structure, improper lag to floor and walls, no safety training and not being approved by a structural engineer.

In Ontario, one in every six lost-time injuries is caused by a fall (slips and falls totaled 65 per cent of accidents overall). Falls killed 11 workers in 2009 in Ontario; slips trips and falls accounted for one in five injuries and one in four fatalities in industrial workplaces alone. 429 fatalities were reported in Ontario as of October 2010. In BC, 7.5 per cent of all accidents are related to falls; over the past five years, 700 BC workers were injured due to slips, trips or falls.

Don't be a statistic: work safe!

A thorough "facility audit" will identify any unsafe, non-compliant hazards in the workplace. It's very easy to miss the obvious when we look at the same things day-in and day-out. It's always a good idea to have an outside party (consulting firm) complete a facility audit at least once per year. Fresh (and trained) eyes often identify hazards overlooked by others who may not be aware of certain risks in the first place.

The OSHA and Canada's building codes are explicit in their requirements to protect workers from slips, trips and falls. A guardrail is required on structures that are over three metres (nine feet) pursuant to section 46 of the OSHA General Requirements 2.1(e). The guardrail must be 107 centimeters above the surrounding floor, ground, platform or other surface pursuant to section 13(1) of O. Reg. 851/90 in accordance with section 14 of O. Reg. 850/90.

Guardrails that are constructed or installed at a workplace must be in accordance with section 46 - the guardrail must extend around the perimeter of all open sides from which the worker may be exposed to the hazard of a fall as outlined in 2(1)(a) to (c) of the Act. (For complete fall protection requirements under the Act, go to Inspectors will look for fall-from-height hazards involving platforms, raised floors, mezzanines and balconies, stairs, ladder and other access points, fall-arrest equipment, guardrails and storage rack safety issues. For each violation of the Act the courts can impose a fine of up to $500,000 against a corporation and up to $25,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months (or both) for an individual.

We are all responsible for ensuring that our workplaces are safe. Don't be afraid to speak up!

Lynne Bard, BA (Honours), C.H.R.P., CES
Human Resources, Safety & Risk Management Experts
Taking the Complexity out of Compliance
Beyond Rewards Inc.
Phone: 519-821-7440
Cell: 519-830-7480

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