Working Wise: Rules in place for fall protection

Dear Working Wise: I noticed some construction workers the other day working quite high up without any ropes. Shouldn’t they be using safety equipment in case they slip? Signed Wondering

Dear Wondering: Anyone working at a height of three metres or more is required to use fall protection equipment.

Falls from any height are a common cause of serious injury and even death in the workplace. Around 20 per cent of the workplace incidents reported to Alberta Occupational Health and Safety since January 2012 involve falls.

Workers must be equipped with a full-body harness attached to an anchor point if a worker might fall a vertical distance of three metres or more.

Fall protection is also required over an unusually dangerous surface, such as uncapped rebar or other construction materials. Guardrails must be installed if a worker might fall a vertical distance of more than 1.2 metres and less than three metres.

The three-metre fall distance is measured from the point from which a worker may fall. The distance the worker would fall must be less than the distance to the nearest object/surface below the worker. The vertical height that a worker may roll or slide down the sloped roof before they lose contact with the roof is not considered to be part of the “fall distance.” If the worker is working close to the gable end of a roof (in residential construction) then that height is included.

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure their workers are protected as much as possible. That includes having the proper equipment on site and ensuring all employees are trained in its use. Employers should ensure only competent, trained workers are up on the roof or other structure.

OHS actively patrols worksites to ensure all workers and employers are being safe. For some who aren’t working safe, it could mean a $200 to $500 ticket.

In fact, OHS officers issued 1,605 orders from April 2015 to April 2016 and more than half of them were related to fall protection.

If you come across a worksite where workers are up high and clearly not protected, you can call Occupational Health and Safety at 1-866-415-8690. You can also file a complaint online at

For more information on fall protection or any other workplace health and safety issues, go to

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services. This column is provided for general information.

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