Toronto, ON — Ontario Ministry of Labour occupational health and safety inspectors will conduct an inspection blitz in November 2009, checking for workplace hazards that can cause slips, trips and falls.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) reports that, since 2002, falls have continued to represent more than 17% of lost-time injury claims.
The focused enforcement is part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy.
Ministry of Labour inspectors will concentrate on transportation, education, industrial services, retail and wholesale workplaces.
Same-level falls (trips and slips)
On average since 1998, same-level falls represented about 70% of the lost time claims related to all falls claims accepted by the WSIB.
Floors or other surfaces used by any worker must be kept free of obstructions, hazards and accumulations of refuse, snow or ice. Special attention should be paid to pedestrian traffic areas such as walkways, aisles, building exits, and egress from work locations.
Falls from heights
Inspectors will check for raised floors, mezzanines, balconies or similar structures that may put workers at risk of falling. Where inspectors determine that a worker is in danger of falling (e.g., from an unguarded raised surface, platform, roof, racking or scaffold), they will issue orders as appropriate. There have been many preventable critical injuries and deaths when workers have fallen from heights less than three metres.
Ladders should not generally be used as a work platform. Ladders that are properly angled, on a sound firm footing, and are combined with the common practice of three-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) can help to minimize fall hazards.
To maintain three-point contact, workers should not carry anything in their hands as they climb or descend. If ladders are used where there is a risk of electrical contact, they should be made of a non-conducting material such as wood or glass fibre.
Inspectors will check adherence to requirements for supporting workers who are raised on platforms by mobile equipment such as a crane, lift truck or similar equipment.
Inspectors have particular concerns about reach trucks and fall-distance calculations where the deployment of lanyards at heights below their intended use may present a hazard to workers.
Falls into liquids
Life jackets are one method of protecting a worker from drowning. In other instances, it may be preferable for the worker to be provided with a tether or other fall-protection method to prevent the worker from drowning.
Logging and trucking
Workers may be exposed to the hazard of falling from the beds of trucks and trailers or from on top of the loads. Many changes have been made to the way work can be done from heights (securing loads, dismounting from the cab, etc.) and to the safe work methods and procedures to protect workers from falling.
Safe At Work Ontario builds on the success of the Ministry of Labour’s four-year compliance program which ran until March 31, 2008. By the fourth year, this program had helped to reduce the annual rate of workplace injury by 20%.
Because of the decline in the annual rate of lost-time injuries, employers have avoided about $5 billion in direct and indirect costs during the four years ending March 31, 2008. About 50,000 injuries were prevented. Prevention of injuries helps to ease the strain on the province’s health care system and enhance workplace productivity.
For information about an e-course on preventing slips and falls at work, visit http://www.ccohs.ca/products/courses/falls_slips_trips_ont/.