Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

An employee helping to erect a permanent work camp near Wabasca, Alberta was injured on February 5 after he fell about eight feet from a roof.

Alberta Employment and Immigration (AEI) spokesman Chris Chodan says the contract worker was moving from one of the camp’s modules to another when he slipped off a beam and fell to the ground. The 42-year-old worker suffered cracked vertebrae in the 1:30 pm accident, Chodan says.

The worker was employed by a contractor that was working alongside Laricina Energy Ltd, a private company which concentrates on “capturing opportunities in the oil sands areas of Western Canada,” says information from its website. Laricina Energy is based in Calgary, but has a field office in Wabasca.

Following the accident, AEI issued a stop work order to Laricina Energy which remains in effect until the company “reinstates adequate fall protection measures,” provides them to health and safety officers and “they are satisfied they are done properly,” Chodan says. He adds that AEI continues to investigate to determine if the worker was wearing a fall protection harness and if it was attached or tied off to an anchor point.

Under Section 139(1) of the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Code, an employer must ensure that a worker is protected from falling at a temporary or permanent work area if he or she may fall “a vertical distance of 3 metres (about 9.8 feet) or more; a vertical distance of less than 3 metres if there is an unusual possibility of injury; or, into or onto a hazardous substance or object, or through an opening in a work surface.”

Despite this requirement, Section 139(4) of the code says that an employer must ensure a worker is protected from falling by a guardrail “if the worker may fall a vertical distance of more than 1.2 metres and less than 3 metres.” Furthermore, if a guardrail is not practicable, a worker must use a travel restraint, personal fall arrest system or an “equally effective” system.

Glen Schmidt, president and CEO of Laricina Energy, argues that best practices were followed in this case. “Industry practice is to not rely on the letter of the law, but good practice,” he says. “Harness and tie-backs are good practice when people are overhead and that was followed.”

However, Schmidt acknowledges that even though there is such a safe practice in place throughout the industry, “someone fell, so what are the changes that occur to ensure that there is worker safety?” He says the company and its contractors are reviewing the circumstances of the accident to “evaluate what other procedures can be augmented to ensure that worker safety can be enhanced.”

My opinion

Can you believe this once again! Alberta has another injury in the workplace. Glen Schmidt, the president and CEO of Laricina Energy, seems to be of the same opinion as many of the other employers do in Alberta.

I quote, “Industry practice is not to rely on the letter of the law” (I’m sorry, what was that he said) “but good practice.”

Mr. Schmidt, if you did follow the letter of the law, your company would not be in this pickle.

Please do not worry Mr. Schmidt. A technicality will arise and your company will get off scott free just as many others have in the past. The Alberta government’s health and safety department will make sure of that. I wonder how well you know them already. That is their reputation.

In Ontario, you would have been charged numerous times, especially with responsibilities of the employer and supervisor. Alberta does not have the same resolve so just wait them out Mr. Schmidt.

Remember — In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable” (Well, almost everywhere in Canada)

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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