Zero Workplace Injuries

Fall Protection

Utilizing standards to protect utility workers from falls

BY MIKE HUNTER, Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA)

Fall protection has gone through many changes and involves a great deal of interpretation. Companies that design, manufacture and distribute this type of equipment vary as greatly as the people who use it. Most fall protection equipment has been manufactured and tested to some sort of standard, but it’s also important that the end user have the knowledge, training and experience to make the best choice for protecting against a fall.

Statistics provided by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario (WSIB) suggest that fall-related injuries continue to be a leading cause of workplace injuries in the province. Developing and implementing a comprehensive fall protection plan is still seen as the best option for preventing fall-related injuries. However, it requires site-specific workplace assessments and training.

There is often a stigma attached to safety at the workplace—many workers have a false sense that they are already protected from falls just because they are wearing the proper equipment. But it’s important that work practices match the protection being worn. As we embark on the challenge of zero workplace injuries, there is a great deal of work to be done; work that will require solid rationale as to why certain choices were made regarding the specific fall protection worn by workers.

Ontario legislation builds a hierarchy of choice that employers, supervisors and workers should follow but which often misses the intent of the legislation. It refers to the appropriate standards to choose while working aloft, which is based on the Canadian Standard Association’s (CSA) specific equipment standards. There is also an obligation for employers to prove they are meeting or exceeding these standards if they wish to choose equipment from manufacturers who make fall protection equipment to a separate standard.

ANSI, EN, CE and CSA seem to be the leading standards worldwide and although there is effort being made to create equivalencies, this has not been achieved to date. In the true spirit of “internal responsibility”, the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario allows employers to choose equipment outside of CSA providing they have selected equipment that meets or exceeds any given CSA standard. These standards range from body belts and saddles (Z259.1-05) to fall restrict equipment (Z259.14-01).

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