Falls from heights: upcoming initiative and insights from new MOL analysis

Feb 19, 2019

Falls from Heights Slips, trips and falls will be the focus of an upcoming Ministry of Labour (MOL) provincial health and safety initiative, running April 15-July 12. To help businesses avoid common issues causing falls, the MOL has released a Fall from Heights Fatalities Analysis. The findings in this analysis can be shared with managers and staff to raise awareness about falls in the workplace and help you prepare for the upcoming initiative.

Common Factors

MOL inspector’s reports were examined to uncover the root causes in 92 fall from heights fatalities from 2009 to 2016. Common factors were:

  • New workers: 29 of 64 fatalities occurred among workers who had been on the job for less than a year. Fourteen workers had been on the job for less than a month. “That’s the first thing that stands out for me in the Fall from Heights Fatalities Analysis, says Brian Varrasso, Co-ordinator for Stakeholder and Public Relations with the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA). “It’s a clear message to employers: ‘Workers who are new to the job are at risk. And you need to do more to protect them.’”
  • Lack of training and protection: The most common contributing factors were lack of worksite instruction (47.8 %), not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) (42.4%), lack of falls training (31.4%), wearing PPE improperly (26.1%), and improper guarding (23.9%)
  • Age: 8 fatalities involved young workers (under 25); 9 involved older workers (65+)
  • PPE: for older workers, not wearing PPE was a common factor; for younger workers, wearing PPE improperly
  • Heights: 31.5% of fatal falls were from roofs, 23.6% from ladders

Action steps

How can employers better protect their workers? Brian Varrasso offers six action steps:

  1. Ensure workers receive training in the proper use of PPE, including fall arrest systems, harnesses, lanyards and anchor points. “The equipment works,” says Brian, “but you have to ensure people are wearing it and wearing it properly.”
  2. Identify fall hazards in your workplace. Are there open edges or unsafe scaffolds? Take steps to eliminate the hazards, such as installing guardrails.
  3. Provide workplace-specific training. “This is critical given the findings,” says Brian. Workers need to understand how to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. “For example, ‘Where are the fall hazards? Can the hazard be eliminated? Can I set up the fall protection equipment so that it stops me from reaching the edge (fall hazard)?’ As a last resort and if fall arrest is the only means of protection, make sure there is a rescue plan.”
  4. Mentor and empower workers. Observe and coach workers, especially in the first few months, to ensure they are using equipment and ladders properly.
  5. Empower workers to ask questions. Make sure there is a comfortable, trusting relationship between supervisors and workers, and encourage them to ask for help without fear of discipline.

How WSPS can help

  1. Fall Prevention Safety Training (classroom or onsite) offered by WSPS with Safe-Tech Training. Refresher training now available. Please contact your WSPS Account Manager or Customer Care for more information or to book training.
  2. Working at Heights eCourse(1 hour)
  3. Partners in Prevention 2019 Conference & Trade Show:
    • Leading Edge and Sharp Edge Fall Protection Applications (May 1)
    • Fall Protection Professional Development Course (April 29)
    • Visit the fall prevention exhibitors at the trade show, including IHSA’s High Risk Display - all the information you need about working in high risk areas, including working at heights.
  4. Safety Connection: Falls from Heights: What type of training do you need? Available at no cost, this 2-hour event provides a forum where health and safety professionals can connect, exchange ideas and share best practices:
    • St. Catharines, March 27 and June 12
    • Windsor, March 27
    • Vaughan, April 3
    • London, June 6
  5. Download a snapshot of the MOL’s analysis
  6. IHSA is a leader in health and safety education in a variety of industries, including: construction, electrical, utilities, aggregates, natural gas, ready-mix concrete, and transportation. Find out more about their Working at Heights courses and resources.