Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A window washer plummeted to his death, on August 18, 2009, from the 18th storey of a downtown skyscraper Tuesday afternoon. He fell onto a platform of the Blue Cross building at the corner on President-Kennedy Ave. and Aylmer St. at 1:30 p.m.

The worker, who was employed by Mon laveur de vitres, was tethered to a metal washing platform when it became dislodged and plummeted onto another roof, two storeys up, above the Maison du Jazz restaurant on Aylmer. He had been yanked off the roof of the Blue Cross building.

“I was working inside the restaurant and we heard a big bang, so I came outside,” said John Henry, an employee at Maison du Jazz. He said he heard screaming and a call for help from two other employees.

Henry called 911 and climbed on the roof to help.

“I took his pulse to see if he was still (alive), and he was not breathing anymore. He had big beams, big metal beams on him that fell down with him,” said Henry.

Other employees said the victim, a man in his 40s, was a veteran window washer with decades of experience.

The CSST is launching an investigation into the incident, but it is too soon to speak with witnesses who are still shaken up from the fall, said Julie Melanson, a spokesperson for the CSST. (French: Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Quebec, Canada)

This is the fourth incident since 2000 in which a window washer has fallen from a building, said Melanson, adding that this is the second fatal fall.

Requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation note that a fall-protection system must be used when work is being done at a place from which a fall of three metres or more may occur or where a fall from lesser height involves an unusual risk of injury. A worker is required to wear a full-body harness or other harness acceptable to the board when using a personal fall-protection system for fall arrest.

It is not known at this time what the actual or contributing causes of the accident were.

My opinion

The Canadian government needs to step in and set a Canadian safety standard for swing stage application. There needs to be clear language so that all employers, contractors have in place the same meeting review of the high safety standards prior to any setup. As in ‘Confined Space Entry’ I believe that window washing or any swing stage high rise application also needs to be a ‘permit’ situation. Training is a big part of this. Then and only then will it guarantee all parties understand the proper applicable standards and begin the job with a refresher of the safety standards that apply.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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