Spring Forward, Fall Back!

STOP Cutting Corners

STOP Cutting Corners!

Wascana Park, Regina Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is a province that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time and our safety statistics indicate we often don’t observe safety hazards. Falls are the most common cause of injuries.

I know that I have taken unwarranted risks in the past that could’ve resulted in falling from a significant height. I realize that there are many safety precautions that workers take when they are working from heights, but are those same precautions adhered to at home? How many people have over-reached while standing on a ladder? Or how about moving a ladder by jumping up slightly while standing on the ladder? Or how about cutting down trees from high up without any sort of harness? Or lastly how about roofing without any fall protection? I only list these infractions because at one point in my past I have been guilty of each one of them without addressing the hazard. I got away with these violations, I was fortunate … maybe you were, maybe you weren’t, but I have to ask “Is it worth the risk?”

The problem with falls is they have the potential not just to injure, but to kill.

Ledcor workers "Tied Off" on Hill Tower III

Falls account for over half of construction site deaths. Fall protection is heavily reinforced because the repercussions are so severe. From my downtown location I have noticed the use of fall protection during the construction of the new Hill Tower III.

Many years ago a friend of mine was working on a 10 storey building as a window cleaner. Something went horribly wrong and he fell. As he began his speedy descent down the side of the building he was able to keep his composure and rationalized that if he was able to fall onto the adjacent 6 storey building he would face a much greater chance for survival. He felt if he kicked against the glass hard enough he might be able to limit his fall to 4 stories. He kicked for all he was worth and his intuition was right … he landed on the adjacent building.

The problem was by the time he fell 4 stories his descent reached such a significant velocity the impact was devastating. The impact caused him to lose consciousness which he regained long enough to begin to survey his situation. Ears ringing and dazed he laid on his back on the roof trying to make sense of what had taken place. He looked to his right to see his foot where he knew his knee should be. Although he remembered landing on his feet, both of his legs had been shattered and compressed when he hit the rooftop. Unable to move it was apparent that he also suffered from a broken back. This fall would not be the end of my friend, but his life was forever altered from that moment forward. I never knew him before he was confined by his wheelchair, but the man I knew after the fact was full of life and adventure and able to accept his circumstances and move on with life.

A fall injury doesn’t require a great height, I recall a former co-worker who was changing his Christmas lights on the roof of his house. He had a heart-attack and lost his balance, fell off his roof and broke his pelvis, leg and hip. Due to the number of injuries he sustained he needed significant recovery time before the Doctors were able to address his triple bypass surgery. Even 8 feet can really do a number on you … so how about 2 feet? Before we got married my fiancée’s Mom was up 2 steps on a mini-ladder when she fell and used her hand to stop her fall which resulted in a compound fracture of her arm. In order to set the bone properly she required a pin to be inserted in her arm. We were all thankful her arm healed just in time for our wedding.

Falls are so common you likely know someone who was injured by a fall … just a couple weeks ago a story was posted in the Vancouver Sun about a man who nearly died after falling 5 feet off a ladder. Some of the stories I shared may seem a bit extreme, but falls are dangerous and you need to take the proper precautions to avoid them … whether it’s from 2 feet or 10 stories. Those of you in different time zones may need to set your watches back this weekend, but I would urge everyone to look for ways to prevent falls and watch that you don’t set your life back.

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