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Preventing injury and deaths of the scaffolding workers



Last August, I told you about the horrific scaffolding accident, noted here and here, where five workers fell 13 storeys from an apartment building on Christmas Eve 2009. Four died and one suffered serious leg and spinal injuries. Consequently, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation and laid charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) against the company that employed the workers, the director of that company, the workers’ supervisor, the platform supplier company and the director of the platform supplier company.

The main charges were inadequate or no maintenance and supervision; a lack of safety training and equipment; failure to ensure workers use proper devices to prevent them from falling; failure to ensure the platform was not overloaded; and failure to ensure the platform was designed in accordance with regulations of the OHSA.

Subsequently, criminal charges were laid against the corporation and directors in relation to the injury and deaths of the scaffolding workers. The charges included one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and four counts of criminal negligence causing death.

This extremely unfortunate case could have been prevented. At this point, we must learn from this accident in order to ensure it never happens again. To that end, Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine recently released some very helpful scaffold safety essentials:

  • Ensure everyone is properly trained in accordance with safety regulations, including how to safely get on and off the scaffold, how to use fall protection equipment and how to follow erecting and dismantling procedures
  • Take the time for prep work and conduct the necessary checks
  • Ensure that the material has been surveyed or reviewed by a professional engineer and don’t take unlawful short cuts
  • Know and respect the load capacity and don’t fall into the trap of loading too many things or people on the scaffold
  • Ensure the scaffold is correctly secured to the building with the proper braces and ties
  • Use guardrails and make sure workers are using fall protection equipment at all times
  • Inspect and maintain equipment ideally by a professional engineer
  • Store materials in an orderly fashion on a scaffold and keep the platform free of obstructions
  • Ensure that the platform is perfectly level to minimize the loss of balance and falling
  • Use appropriate personal protection equipment including head protection, non-slip protective footwear, and fall protection

Accidents are usually preventable, and prevention begins with becoming more educated about the things on this list.

Christina Catenacci
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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