Blog Post #599 – Fall Protection Falling Down

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A focused inspection campaign involving residential construction sites in Alberta has resulted in almost 400 orders against employers, about one-third of which relate to a lack of fall protection or an associated plan.

Between September 12, 20 11 and October 11, 2011 inspectors with Alberta Human Services (AHS) conducted 611 inspections involving 387 employers. The focus was on new home construction and materials, methods and procedures used for typical wood-frame single and multi-family dwellings, notes a statement from the ministry, based in Edmonton.

Of the 394 directives issued, 83 were stop-work orders and seven were stop-use orders. At 131, fall protection violations under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Code accounted for the largest single category of orders issued.

“Obviously, when we have the numbers that we see come out of a focused safety inspection like this, it is a little disheartening,” suggests AHS spokesperson Barrie Harrison. “Unfortunately, you don’t need to go far, it would seem, to find infractions like this on construction sites.”

The inspection report, released in November, states the majority of stop-work and stop-use orders – 67 and two, respectively – revolved around fall protection. Orders issued related to entrances, walkways, stairways and ladders (74), safeguards (64) and elimination and control of hazards (60).

Over the past several months, Harrison says the AHS has been holding a pilot program of evening and weekend inspections, and this stepped-up schedule will continue as part of the ministry’s ongoing inspection efforts.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour in Edmonton, supports evening and weekend inspections. Still, “workers need the protection of a union so they can refuse to do unsafe work, so they can demand safety equipment and insist on safety processes being followed without fear of being punished or fired,” McGowan contends.

“Employers were warned about this inspection blitz in advance and given a chance to clean up their act,” he says. “Can you imagine how many health and safety violations would have been found if these had been surprise inspections?”.

Noting that there were 24 work-related deaths year to date as of early November, MLA Rachel Notely, Labour critic for Alberta’s NDP, recommends hiring more inspectors. Harrison says the plan is to beef up the complement of provincial inspectors from 100 to 132.

My opinion

The new ‘Working at Heights’ legislation, in Ontario, is now law. Now every worksite needs to receive the upgraded training and apply the knowledge.

The readership also knows that I find the province of Alberta to be lacking in the enforcement side of the business and I feel that there needs to be a change in the appropriate government agency, the watchdog for the health and safety of the Alberta workplace. Since the government of Alberta has swung from the right to the left so maybe, with the help of the Alberta federation of Labour, change is on the horizon.

Let’s hope so! It is a long time coming.

Remember – Alberta Health and Safety – An Oxymoron!

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Fall Protection’ and Working at Heights’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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