Stay On Top of Fall Hazards


Falls from elevation hazards are present at almost every job site, and many workers are exposed to these hazards daily.

An unprotected side or edge that is 6’ or more above a lower level should be protected from falls by the use of a guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest system. These hazardous exposures exist in many forms, and can be as seemingly innocuous as changing a light bulb on a step ladder to something as high risk as connecting bolts on high steel at 200 feet in the air.

Employers should design and use comprehensive fall protection programs to reduce the risk of serious or fatal injuries. At a minimum, employers should 1) identify all fall hazards at a work site; 2) conduct regular safety inspections; 3) train employees in recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions; and 4) provide employees with appropriate protective equipment.

Again, any worker who may be exposed to a fall hazard should be properly trained. The training should enable each worker to recognize fall hazards and the procedures to follow for minimizing such hazards. The training should be provided by a person qualified through education and/or experience.

Utilize these basic ladder rules as a guide –

  • Inspect ladders before each use
  • Maintain ladders free of oil, grease and other slipping hazards
  • Keep metal parts lubricated
  • Make sure braces, bolts and screws are in place and secure
  • Do not load ladders beyond the manufacturer’s rated capacity
  • Use ladders only for their designed purpose
  • Use ladders only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement
  • Set ladder feet parallel to the surface that the ladder rests against
  • Clear areas around the top and bottom of ladders
  • Extend ladders at least 3 feet above the top support
  • Angle the ladder so that the distance from the bottom of the ladder to the wall is one-fourth the ladder’s working length
  • Do not move, shift or extend ladders while in use
  • Use ladders equipped with nonconductive side rails if the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment
  • Face the ladder when moving up or down
  • Wear shoes with non-skid soles
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder — either both feet and one hand or one foot and two hands
  • Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance or falling

Hot Topic: Farm Safety


The Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting program (CAIR) reported that an average of 104 people died every year from agricultural incidents between 1990 and 2008. Recently, several Canadian farms have come under public scrutiny for questionable safety practices. An eastern Saskatchewan chicken ranch was ordered to stop hiring underage workers last month, following multiple child labour complaints. In Ontario, police are investigating the death of a North Walsingham tobacco farmer who drove his fertilizer spreader off a 75-foot embankment into a pond.

Agriculture is considered one of Canada’s most hazardous industries, so farm owner/operators have considerable challenges to face in keeping workers and visitors safe. Ensuring the safety of not only workers, but other adults and children who may visit or live on the farm is critical. Prominently displaying safety and first aid signs will communicate a safety-first attitude, in addition to offering guidance. Proper PPE and lockout/tagout protocol is also critical in avoiding machine-related injuries. Be careful in selecting workers who are competent, confident, responsible, and capable to operate machinery. If you need assistance establishing safe practices on your farm, check out The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA)’s comprehensive FarmSafe Plan.

Farms can be fun, exciting, and lucrative – but only if safety is the #1 priority. The Ministry of Labour offers extensive information on farm equipment and general agricultural compliance and safety. The Canada Safety Council offers the following safety training courses that may be of interest to farm operators and employees.

  • ARGO Operator Course
  • ATV Rider Course
  • Confined Spaces Training Course
  • Ladder Safety Training Course
  • Snowmobile Operators Course
  • Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) Side by Side Course
  • WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) Training Course

Be sure and stay on top of industry and equipment-related updates, ask questions, and empower the experts in your facility so that your farm can get the most out of the remainder of the season.

Ladder Safety Saves Lives

Building workers inside large construction site, wide angle view

“In construction, the single biggest risk of injury is falling from a ladder,” said Mike Chappell, coordinator of Ontario’s Construction Health and Safety Program.

“Ladders are the most commonly misused piece of equipment in the construction industry,” he stressed.

From 2006 to May 2010, there were 396 fall incidents causing critical injuries. Of those, 127 or 32% were caused by the unsafe use of ladders. During the same period, there were 83 fatalities from falls and 10 to 12% involved ladders.

A pro-active move to reverse this disturbingly high percentage of ladder-related injuries and deaths is driving this month’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) construction safety inspection blitz on Ladder Safety and Fall Protection Hazards.

Here’s a brief thumbnail of the main recommendations for ladder safety:

  • Use a ladder simply for access and egress.
  • Increasingly, scaffolds and platforms are preferred for working at heights above three metres and elevated work platforms and cherry pickers for work areas that are even higher.
  • If there’s no other alternative, work must be performed on a ladder above three metres and if workers cannot maintain three-point contact, it’s imperative for your workers’ safety to provide the right fall protection equipment – harnesses, lanyards and/or lifelines – while they perform their work.

“Often this type of protection for workers is overlooked by employers deciding to use ladders,” Chappell stated.

A far more comprehensive outline of regulations and recommendations zeroing in on the specifics on how to use ladders safely with appropriate fall protection is detailed in the Ladder Use in Construction Guideline   developed in cooperation with the MOL and published last year by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) based on the Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It’s definitely worth reading.

One safety measure recommended in this guideline is that employers do Ladder Risk Assessments before deciding to assign workers to use ladders rather than scaffolds when working above grade. This three-part process described in the guideline involves a systematic assessment of the potential risk of the ladder, the worker and the environment.

Although Chappell says it’s an excellent safety tool, he admits these Ladder Risk Assessments are often not done and other safety experts agree.

“In the real world, guys are not going to go through hours of paper work for a 10-minute job,” said Robert Gill, CHRP, CRSP of RMG Consulting Group, Inc.

“I know there has to be something done to curb that 32%, but this is new and the construction industry isn’t yet fully receptive to it.”

Ladders are safe if used properly, but it’s the human element that makes them dangerous, Gill said.

“Workers leave damaged ladders on site that can cause accidents. Another common hazard is when a worker is on a ladder near the edge of a building. If he goes up the ladder and his body is above the guardrail, without a rope guard, harness, lanyard and fixed support, he can fall,” said Gill.

Safety expert Greg Leader of Leader Industries sees lots of workers in the field working from ladders, but too often ladders are used precariously, he noted. Workers straddle ladders on the second rung, without three-point contact and can easily lose their balance and fall backwards.

“Ladders are always going to have a place in this industry –– good quality ladders that are up to code with good quality fall protection equipment –– as long as workers are tied down and the ladders are strongly anchored,” he said.

Guardrails should be the first line of defense, but if that’s not possible, then use ladders with fall protection methods, Leader said.

“The reality is that nobody starts a job to do it unsafely. If a worker is working at three metres or 10-feet, and if the ladder is the only way he can do that job, they must be tied off with fall restrain protection.”

Chappell added that “Ladders are so common, often used at home and they’re not considered hazardous by the average person so users become complacent about the risk in working from ladders.”

“Often workers say they’re only working at height for a ‘second,’ but workers don’t actually use ladders for a second, even if they say they do,” Chappell said.

“They shouldn’t use ladders for extended periods because it’s ergonomically dangerous and workers become tired. Also workers believe if they aren’t maintaining three-point contact, they can save themselves by grabbing side rails as they begin to fall, but by the time they realize they’re falling, it’s too late,” he said.

“We have to change the culture and stress the urgency for employers to invest in good, high quality equipment,” Chappell said. “I often hear people say that they’ll use a ladder and it’s only going to take a minute, but it takes less than a minute to fall. Often the injured worker doesn’t get up from those falls.”