An Employer’s Guide to Preventing Falls in the Workplace

  • Workplace Health & Safety
preventing-falls-workplace
Michelle Ann Zoleta

Michelle Ann Zoleta, Health & Safety Team Manager

(Last updated )

Every year, over 42,000 Canadians are injured due to fall incidents in the workplace.

Despite the prevalence of falls at work, employers who build their workplace culture around certain best practices will be more likely to prevent falls from occurring in the future.

As part of Fall Prevention Month, we want to encourage employers to promote awareness and educate their employees on how to reduce the likelihood of falls.

Here is a guide for employers on how to prevent falls in the workplace.

Why is fall protection planning important?

Falls are common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Whether it’s protecting employees working at heights, or implementing safe practices to prevent slips and trips in the office, with the right planning, employers can eliminate the hazards and control the risks associated with falls.­­

What are employers’ duties to reduce fall prevention?

Every province in Canada has different occupational health and safety laws that protect workers from falls. Most of them require a policy when a worker has the potential to fall three metres. Employers should check with their local jurisdiction to see which guidelines apply to them.

Common measures to prevent falls in the workplace include workplace inspections, risk assessments, and the implementation of barriers like handrails, surface opening protection like covers or guardrails, warning barriers/control zones, fall or travel restraint systems, safety nets, and fall arrest systems. Depending on the type of work environment and jurisdiction, legal requirements can also include the use of equipment like ladders and scaffolding.

What are the different types of falls?

Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety show that 67% of falls result from slips and trips, while the remaining 30% of falls are from working with heights. It is important for you to be aware of the differences between the three when assessing your workplace for the risk of falls.

Slips

Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Common causes of slips are wet or oily surfaces, spills, weather hazards, unanchored rugs or mats, or flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have the same traction as other areas.

Trips

Trips occur when someone’s foot collides with an object, causing them to lose balance. Common causes of tripping include obstructed views, poor lighting, clutter, uneven carpeting, uncovered cables, unclosed drawers, and uneven walking surfaces.

Falls from heights

Working at heights constitutes any work where someone could fall a distance and be injured. Three metres is usually the minimum to be considered a height, examples include working from a step ladder, on a roof, above an open area like a vat, or on a platform like a forklift.

How do I prevent slips and trips in the workplace?

Slips and trips result from unexpected changes in contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. Good housekeeping, safe flooring, proper footwear, and a safe pace of walking are all measures that can prevent slips and trips from occurring in the workplace.

Floors

The most important part of preventing slips and trips in the workplace is to make sure floors are free from hazards. Any spills should be cleaned as soon as possible and wet areas should also be marked with signs. Any debris and obstacles should be free from walkways, cables should be covered in walkways, rugs and carpets should be completely flat, and walkways should be well-lit, with any faulty lighting fixed. Floors that have uneven surfaces that can be unsafe should be fixed or replaced.

Footwear

Some workplaces will be outdoors or be more prone to having oily or wet surfaces. In these instances, appropriate footwear should be enforced by employers to prevent falls. Consultation with manufacturers is highly recommended to advise footwear that will be the most slip-resistant.

What policies do I need in place for employees working with heights?

Employees who are working at heights will need to have a Fall Protection Plan in place. These plans outline the safety procedures involved in working with heights and must be designed specifically for each site where workers are working.

How do I know if my workplace should have a Fall Protection Plan?

Some of the reasons you would need a Fall Protection Plan include if your workers are working a height of 3 metres or over, or if they are at risk of falling into operating machinery, a large body of water or hazardous substance, or through an opening. We can help you assess whether your workplace needs a Fall Protection Plan. Our specialists will conduct a comprehensive on-site review of your workplace operations to assess compliance, identify gaps and make recommendations to ensure your business and staff are always protected.

A fall protection plan should be a collaborative effort by both employees and supervisors with direct experience and whose work involves fall hazards, and your workplace’s health and safety committee. Employers should ensure that their plan includes procedures for emergencies and fall rescues.

What actions do I take if someone falls in my workplace?

For workplaces, especially those where employees are working at heights, it is crucial that designated staff are trained in a plan they can follow in the instance of a fall — and that they have access to any equipment they may need to rescue others. Employers are also advised to discuss potential situations with their emergency services to see what services are available to them. To learn more about rescue plans, refer to the guidelines posted on the OHS website.

Do you need help ensuring your workplace is compliant with provincial health and safety laws?

By fulfilling your health and safety obligations as an employer, you not only ensure the safety of your employees but also protect your business from costly fines.

Our experts can help you prepare for workplace inspections, develop relevant health and safety policies, and assist you on any health and safety issues that may arise . To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.

 

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