Fall Protection Fines

Fall Protection Fines

15th April 2014

With safety in the workplace playing such an important role nowadays, you could be forgiven for thinking that workers will use all the safety equipment on offer.  However, a Toronto hoist worker was fined $1,500 last week for a violation of the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Act.  Christopher Schwaemmie was working on a hoist tower on a Toronto construction project when he jumped from the tower onto a nearby roof.  A Ministry of Labour inspector happened to be watching Christopher and saw that although he was wearing a fall protection harness and lanyard, the lanyard was not tied off to anything.  The jump made was about 50ft above ground which represents a real life-threatening risk.

A garbage removal company in Ontario was meanwhile fined $75,000 for failing to ensure that workers wore protective devices following a fall by an employee which resulted in his paralysis.  Fall protection equipment had not been provided to the worker who fell from a roof onto a walkway.  The Ministry of Labour in Canada is cracking down at the moment on both business owners and employees who fail to provide or use the correct safety equipment.

Falls are the leading cause of death and injury in the construction industry worldwide, so any safety equipment available should be used.  Being macho and ignoring health and safety guidelines is ridiculous and childish, although there are plenty of YouTube videos showing people doing just that.
In the UK a logistics firm has recently fined £250,000 following a fatal fall through a warehouse roof.  The roofing contractor employee was cleaning out guttering when he stepped on a fragile roof panel which resulted in his fall.  The Health and Safety Executive discovered that the logistics firm who hired the roofing contractors had ignored its own health and safety guidelines and failed to supervise the work or assess how the work would be carried out, knowing full well that the roof in question was fragile and dangerous.

This accident could easily have been prevented with some forethought.  The fragile roof could have had boards placed on it to distribute the weight, scaffolding could have been erected or a cherry picker could have been hired to carry out the work.  This failure to ensure adequate safety precautions not only resulted in a fine for the hiring company.  The roofing contractor who employed the man who fell received a four month suspended prison sentence.

The UK Court of Appeal is considering the issue of imposing higher fines to ensure that the message is brought home to directors and members of companies, with large organizations  (those with turnovers in excess of £1 billion) to receive greater levels of financial punishment if convicted of these types of offences.  Smaller companies are also likely to see fines increase in the future as the Health and Safety Executive strives to bring home to people just how important these health and safety rules are and that compliance is an absolute must, no matter how large or how small the company involved.