Network Magazine
HSO Network Magazine • Volume 1 • Issue 1

Don’t Fall for Fall Hazards

By Ariel White, Infrastructure Health & Safety Association


Employers have a legal obligation to take all possible precautions to protect workers. It is also the responsibility of supervisors and all workers not to ignore but rather identify and address all workplace hazards. When hazards have been identified they can be either eliminated or controlled to reduce the risk of injury.

What are the hazards?

Common causes of slips and falls are

  • slippery surfaces
  • poor housekeeping practices (tripping hazards)
  • poor lighting

Observe the workplace and remove all potential trip hazards or spills. It is also important to make employees aware of potentially hazardous areas. If surfaces such as parking lots or walkways become slippery due to seasonal conditions, ensure there is adequate slip-reduction material such as salt or sand to increase friction.

Falls from height can result from using a ladder that wasn’t properly secured, falling through a floor opening or open hole, or failure to use appropriate fall-protection equipment. Most regulations state that a worker at risk of falling more than three metres (10 feet) must be protected by a guardrail system. If such a system is not practical, then a travel-restraint system, fall-arrest system, or safety net must be used. In many cases, guardrails are the most reliable and convenient means of fall protection. However in certain workplaces, such as mining operations, utility work and other conditions, a fall arrest system is required.  In these situations, fall prevention is not practical but fall protection is more appropriate.

Common causes of falls from heights include

  • missing, defective, or misused fall-protection devices or guardrails
  • poorly maintained or erected ladders or scaffolds
  • inadequate work methods, training, time to work safely, or proper footwear


There are a number of ways employers and employees can work together to reduce falls-related injuries.

  • Identify all locations or situations where workers may be exposed either to the risk of falling from heights or to slips and falls.
  • Eliminate the hazards – close up holes, restrict access to the hazardous area, clean up spills.
  • If the hazard can’t be eliminated, then establish a program – this should include procedures, responsibilities for people in the workplace, fall prevention or fall arrest equipment where needed, training and communication.
  • Maintain three-point contact when climbing up or down a ladder.  Keep your upper body between the side-rails and do not over-reach.  Remember to always set up the ladder at the proper slope (3:1 or 4:1) and secure it whenever possible.
  • Provide general training on fall protection and prevention.  Also implement workplace-specific training dealing with the particular fall hazards and systems being used to prevent falls.
  • It’s important to include slips, trips, and falls information in safety meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to injury prevention.
  • Using sound housekeeping practices can eliminate many fall hazards.
  • Post adequate signage when workers are exposed to fall hazards such as slippery surfaces or floor openings.
  • Outline specific policies and procedures for any work that exposes workers to fall hazards. Review these policies and procedures on a regular basis and ensure they are adjusted according to the work being performed.
  • Make sure everyone is using approved work methods at all times when working from heights.
  • Performing regular workplace inspections can help to identify any potential hazards.

Your health and safety associations can help
The health and safety associations (HSAs) that make up Health & Safety Ontario have a wealth of information on fall prevention. They can help your company determine the best ways to reduce fall hazards based on your industry sector. Through training, signage or advice on maintaining a fall-prevention plan, the HSAs can help you save workers from injury and save money. When it comes to information on fall hazards, we offer

  • training programs
  • information guides
  • posters
  • stickers
  • DVDs

 See Fall Prevention Resources for details.

  1. Fall Prevention Resources
  2. 2010 Falls Blitz Results
  3. Falling Incidents: Recent Court Prosecutions



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