According to statistics, about 40,000 workers are injured yearly from falls from heights in Canada alone. If your company involves any potential for a worker to fall, you need to have a fall protection plan in place -- and workers need to be trained on it -- to eliminate fall hazards or control those risks.
You are legislatively considered to be working at height any time you are 3 metres or higher, and can fall and be injured. Falls at lower heights may still injure you, however. Falling from ladders or off of roofs are common, but thorough inspections can identify some less obvious fall hazards, such as unguarded holes in a floor, working from a man lift, or suspended platform.
Specific legislative requirements do vary by country and province or state, but all require companies to have a fall protection plan and fall protection systems in place. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be considered last, since PPE does not stop a fall from happening and doesn't reduce the forces, it only protects the person from some of the potential injury.
Fall protection plans include all your policies and procedures related to controlling the hazards and risks of working at height in your company. It should include, at a minimum, how your company identifies fall hazards, and what procedures and controls are implemented to prevent injury.
Purchasing, maintaining, inspecting, tagging out, and other factors in the safe usage of ladders, platforms, and other working at heights and fall protection equipment must be addressed. Engineering controls and administrative controls, such as procedures and training, should be detailed, too.
Fall protection plans need to be specific to each worksite; your company may need several to address each different site. Emergency plans need to be included in these.
When creating your fall protection plan, include input from those who have direct experience or who will be impacted, as well as your joint health and safety committee or representative. Start by identifying responsibilities and conducting a thorough hazard assessment to identify concerns.
Consider any possibility for a worker to fall and hit the ground, nearby equipment or a lower structure, and take into account any issues from swinging after a fall. A fallen worker who is suspended needs to be rescued rapidly to prevent suspension trauma.
Fall protection plans need to be site-specific, and detail the specific hazards, fall protection systems to be used, procedures, emergency first aid, and communication methods and sign-offs. This needs to be done for each location, as identified on the plan.
Some responsibilities are defined by legislation; responsibilities not defined can be assigned as appropriate for your company.
Employers must ensure a written fall protection plan, policy and procedures, and emergency rescue procedures are developed. A system to identify all potential fall risks must be included. Workers must be trained on all systems and procedures that affect them, for their role. An employer is also responsible for ensuring all legislative requirements are met.
Passive fall arrest systems, such as guardrails and travel restraint systems must be prioritized over personal fall arrest systems.
Employers must ensure systems are in place to make sure all fall-arresting systems, PPE, and other equipment are complete, maintained, and safe to use, as well as are being used. This includes any full body harness, energy absorbing or self-retracting lanyard, appropriate anchor points, or horizontal life lines.
Reviewing and amending a fall protection plan regularly, or when necessary, after an incident or workplace conditions change is required.
Supervisors implement policies and procedures, and ensure these are being followed, along with legislative requirements. They are responsible for communicating to and informing workers about working at height controls and procedures, to ensure a safe work area. They need to make sure workers are trained, and act on issues raised by workers.
Workers need to participate actively in fall protection training, alert a supervisor about any hazards, follow procedures and regulations, and inspect and use fall protection systems and personal fall protection equipment as trained. Workers need to know of their right to refuse unsafe work.
Key supervisors and workers should be included. Any potential for a risk of falling must be identified before work begins.
Potential falls from a height of 3 metres or more, or from heights less than that if situations create an increased risk of injury, such as falling into water, operating machinery, or other hazard, need to be identified. Holes that a person can drop through need to be included. Consider also risks due to equipment, such as guardrails, that are in poor condition, or other poor conditions, like wet floors.
Methods to eliminate the hazard or controls to reduce the likelihood or risk must be determined and implemented.
Workers need to be trained on the hazard assessment and identified controls.
Emergency procedures and a fall rescue plan, such as for retrieving a worker hanging in midair in a reasonable time, are necessary to prevent suspension injuries to a fallen worker. Like fire evacuation procedures and plans, the fall emergency procedures need to be specific to a site, and identify everyone's responsibilities, so people know what to do before an incident.
Contact local emergency services to see if they could help a fallen worker.
Train designated rescuers and workers, and ensure all equipment, first aid, and other essentials for rescue procedures are available, every time.
If a fall hazard cannot be eliminated, engineering controls to prevent a fall should be prioritized. To help prevent falls, consider controls like fixed barriers such as guardrails and surface opening protection. Administrative controls like warning barriers or administrative control zones can also help.
After these, protection to prevent injury if a fall does occur is necessary.
Fall containment systems like nets may be appropriate in some circumstances.
A fall or travel restraint system to prevent a worker from falling or travelling to an unguarded edge where a fall is possible is preferable to fall arrest systems that do not prevent a fall, but just stop the worker from falling all the way to the ground and somewhat mitigate the forces.
Specific legislative requirements apply to ladders, scaffolding, and other equipment or situations. Confirm requirements for your jurisdiction.
Most jurisdictions require workers who work at heights to receive training by approved providers.
Team-1 Academy offers working at height and fall protection training, including industry-specific training, with experienced trainers and hands-on training, so workers feel truly prepared for their work activities and any situation that may arise.