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Section 5: Falls, Slips and Trips

Introduction

The Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Farming Operations in Ontario were developed to highlight specific, and sometimes unique and unusual hazards on farms. They were jointly prepared by representatives of the farming community, the Farm Safety Association (now Workplace Safety and Prevention Services), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.

The purpose of the guidelines is to help employers, supervisors and workers on farms recognize hazards and determine the ways they may best comply with their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the relevant regulations. The guidelines provide general information to those in the workplace to help them identify specific hazards and dangerous situations. The guidelines may also provide the workplace parties with suggestions to consider in determining how to protect worker health and safety and to prevent injuries.

It is important to understand that the guidelines do not replace the laws that are in place. Employers, supervisors and workers on farms have responsibilities and rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the following three regulations under the Act: Regulation for Farming Operations, O. Reg. 414/05, Critical Injury Defined, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 834 and Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, O. Reg. 297/13. The requirements in the OHSA and these three regulations must be complied with.

Employers have a legal obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers; and, supervisors and workers must take appropriate steps to identify and address all workplace hazards. The guidelines are a starting point for the workplace parties to think about how to fulfill their obligations under the OHSA. Following the recommendations suggested in these guidelines does not relieve the workplace parties of their obligations to comply with the OHSA.

This is the first edition of the guidelines. They will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis, as needed, and expanded as new production methods and technologies emerge.

This section deals with the protection of workers from falls, slips and trips and covers the following topics:

Definitions

Fall Protection System:
A system designed to protect workers from the risk of falling between levels when working at heights. Examples of fall protection systems include safety harnesses and lifelines; the use of guardrails or barriers; and, travel restraints that limit a worker's movement to a safe area.
Guardrail System:
Means an assembly of components joined together to provide a barrier to prevent a worker from falling from the edge of a surface.
Three Point Contact Method:
Refers to maintaining contact with either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times.

General responsibilities

  1. The employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to protect the safety of workers who may be injured by falling:
    • from a height within a structure;
    • from a ladder;
    • through openings in a work surface;
    • while working on a level surface; or
    • while working on and around machinery.
  2. The employer and supervisor should ensure that a worker who uses a fall protection system to prevent a fall is adequately instructed in its use by a competent person.
  3. The employer and supervisor should ensure that a fall protection system is used whenever a fall from a height involves a risk of injury and that the components of the fall protection system are adequate to protect the worker.
  4. The employer, supervisor and workers should keep work surfaces clear of slip and trip hazards to the greatest extent possible.
  5. Workers should:
    • follow the instruction and training provided by the employer;
    • learn to recognize potential slip and trip hazards;
    • report to their supervisor, anything they feel could be a threat to sound footing.

Factors to Consider in Fall Prevention

Falls From Heights

  1. The employer should develop safety procedures for each job task that requires a worker to work at a height greater than three metres.
  2. Each procedure should outline specific safety precautions to be taken to protect the worker from a fall. The employer should instruct workers in these procedures and review them before a worker starts the task.
  3. Where there is a hazard of falling between levels or floors within a building or structure, a guardrail system should be provided as the primary means of fall protection. The guardrail system should be constructed to withstand all loads applied to it.
  4. If a guardrail system cannot be installed, the employer should provide adequate protection to protect the worker from a fall.
  5. The employer should provide adequate protection when a guardrail system has to be removed temporarily to perform work. The employer may consider:
    • providing an alternate means of fall protection that will not allow a worker to fall onto either the ground or another level or object below the work; and,
    • ensuring that the alternate means of fall protection is used by the workers; and,
    • posting warning signs.
  6. Trap doors and feed "throw down" holes should be covered when not in use.
  7. Guardrails should be installed around clean-out openings in multi-floored confinement houses and other such structures when the openings are not in use.

Working With Ladders

  1. The employer should ensure that a portable ladder has non-slip feet, is placed on firm footing, and has no broken or loose members or other faults.
  2. If it is necessary to work on a ladder for an extended period of time, without changing location, the employer should try to provide scaffolds or other work platforms to reduce the risk of falling.
  3. When a portable ladder exceeds six metres in length, and is not securely fastened or is likely to be endangered by traffic, it should be:
    • held in place by one or more workers while being used; and,
    • inclined so that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is not less than one quarter and not more than one third of the length of the ladder.
  4. The employer should ensure that an orchard ladder is appropriate for the task, and that the worker is instructed in its proper use. When necessary for safety, the feet of the ladder should be equipped with steel points or other non-slipping bases designed for the surface on which the ladder will be used.
  5. Where a worker climbs the outside of a structure such as a silo or grain bin on an access ladder fixed in position, the ladder should have a safety cage installed to protect the worker. In the absence of a safety cage, other means of fall protection should be used, for example, the three-point method of contact while climbing.

Eliminating Slips and Trips on a Level Surface

  1. All aisles and walkways should be kept free of clutter and debris.
  2. Oil spills and other slippery materials should be cleaned up immediately.
  3. Areas that are slippery because of the continuous use of water--common in the floriculture industry--should be off-limits as general traffic areas and restricted to those workers who must perform their duties in that area.
  4. Workers should put tools away when they are no longer needed.
  5. Sand and/or salt should be spread on icy surfaces if work has to be done in the vicinity. If the weather is particularly bad, consider putting the job off until conditions improve.
  6. Workers should wear safety footwear, appropriate for the work being done, to prevent slipping and falling on walking surfaces.

Taking Extra Care Around Machinery

Slips, trips and falls around farm equipment can have fatal consequences. Here are some additional points to consider when working with machinery.

  1. Workers should never jump from a tractor. There is always the danger of catching clothing on pedals, levers, or other protruding parts. They could land on an uneven surface and injure their ankles, legs, or back.
  2. Workers should be instructed on the proper techniques for mounting and dismounting equipment. They should always use handrails, handholds, and steps to mount or dismount tractors and self-propelled equipment. Workers should follow the 3-point system--either two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet on the machine at all times.
  3. Never operate equipment from any position other than the operator's seat or control area.
  4. The equipment operator should never allow passengers to ride along. They are much more likely to fall from a machine when it is moving.
  5. Steps and platforms of tractors and other machinery should be kept clean and dry. Take the time to clean off mud, ice, snow, manure, grease, and other debris that can accumulate on these surfaces. Do not carry tools, chains, or other equipment on the platform.

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