March 4, 2013 by Don Procter
Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors are blitzing construction and industrial workplaces for falling hazards this month.
“Especially in construction, falls remain the number one cause of critical injuries and fatalities,” said George Gritziotis, Ontario’s chief prevention officer in a news release.
In 2011, about 41 per cent of deaths and 60 per cent of critical injuries involved falls from heights at construction workplaces, according to MOL statistics.
In February and March, inspectors are checking for any hazards that could cause workers to slip, trip or fall, both outdoors and indoors.
Workers are at even greater risk of slipping and falling right now due to snow, ice and frost, says the MOL.
“Workers need to maintain what I call situational awareness,” says Jim LaFontaine, health and safety manager for Dufferin Construction.
“This means knowing your surroundings and being diligent about your ‘housekeeping’ by keeping walkways and other areas clear of materials and debris.”
LaFontaine says construction and other sites need to be kept clear because a heavy snowfall overnight can bury debris and create tripping hazards.
As well, friction is greatly reduced if workers walk on construction materials like steel and plywood or climb ladders that are covered in frost, snow or ice, he says. The tread on workers’ footwear needs to be in good condition and anti-slip coverings may need to be worn.
LaFontaine says workers also need to be alert to possible falling snow and ice from steel and other materials overhead.
Workers can fall from heights as well as on the same level such as on floors, the ground and other surfaces.
“When we look at the history of injuries from falls in Ontario, it’s very rarely the most complicated things that cause an injury,” says Gordon Leffley, an industrial field consultant for Workplace Safety and Prevention Services.
“It’s actually the simple things that cause injuries,” he says. “Sometimes we need a little reminder of the simple things we need to pay attention to in order to prevent those injuries.”