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Electrician's fall from ladder triggers probe
3/1/2005
Canadian Occupational Health & Safety News

February 28, 2005 -- Halifax, NS (Canadian OH&S News) -- An accident resulting in serious injuries to an electrician who fell 20 feet from a ladder while working in a Halifax office building has prompted an investigation by Nova Scotia's labour department.

At 9:45 am on February 11, a 42-year-old electrician was running electrical conduit at the Maritime Life Building. For reasons that have yet to be determined, the employee of Halifax-based electrical contractor Chebucto was taken to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital where he was treated for serious head injuries, says Penny McCormick, a spokeswoman for the environment and labour department.

Until the investigation is completed, McCormick says she is unable to specify whether or not the man was working with a fall arrest system at the time. She says the man had been an electrician with the company for 12 years.

Bill Shewan, technical and communications consultant with the Electrical and Utilities Safety Association of Ontario, explains that a ladder extended to 20 feet has to be tied off, and there would need to be a work-positioning device. Typically, wearing a body belt with a D-ring at the front and back, the worker would hook a retractable lanyard to one side of the belt, wrap it around the rung of the ladder, and affix it to the other D-ring.

The method keeps the worker from over-reaching and losing balance, Shewan says. "As long as they're affixed so that they can't move the centre line of their body past either side of the ladder, they would keep their weight where it should be on the ladder."

Nova Scotia's Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations require fall protection at heights - the distance from the worker's feet to the floor below - of three metres and above.

Shewan says a number of safety devices are available for any work at heights over an extended period, including scissor lifts, elevated work platforms with guard rails, and engineered platforms that can be affixed to certain ladders.

"A ladder was never designed to have someone stand and work on it for an extended period of time," he points out. "It's not a platform. It's a mechanism to allow someone to climb."

At press time, the labour department's McCormick says that no orders had been issued.
(Thanks to Tony Moscioni for this)

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That's a sad story. I pray the worker recovers from his "serious" injuries.

When I do training for basic electrical safety I always stress that there are four catagories of injuries from electric shock:
1. Electrocution
2. Electric Shock
3. Burns
4. Falls from elevations

Many people only concentrate on the "direct" hazards associated with electric contact and never think about the "indirect" injuires, like falls. Falls account for the majority of work related injuries and fatalities.

The interesting fact from this article is the Canadian requirement for fall protection on portable ladders. There aren't any similar requirements in the OSHA regulations, either for tying off a portable ladder that is 20' high or for a "positioning" device on a portable ladder. There are OSHA requirements for this protection on "fixed" ladders.

Everyone should take away from this that the OSHA regulations are always considered to be minimum standards. They don't cover every circumstance and sometimes you may need to go above and beyond the minimum to ensure your safety.

Glenn


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