22 Feb Scaling New Heights in a Safe Manner
Many of us have childhood memories of the intoxicating feeling of being up high on a bridge looking below or other situation where we were looking way, way down and holding on tight.
Hopefully we weren’t combining that experience with an activity, but in some workplaces, working at heights is just that. When done correctly and incorporating safe working at heights techniques, it is a safe workplace activity.
For our young workers, it’s sometimes not that simple. Studies have shown that younger people, especially males are not necessarily averse to risk in general and workplace hazards specifically.
Despite stringent legislation, widely available training and province-wide promotional campaigns, falls from heights continue to be one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities in Ontario workplaces.
And while we tend to imagine a serious injury or death from a fall as being something like a fall from a roof or other high location, that is not necessarily the case. Traumatic brain injuries and worse can be caused by a fall from six feet and even less. To a teenaged boy this is far less than the height of a skateboard half pipe and may not register as a situation to be taken seriously.
It is crucial that any worker, young or old, has been trained in working at heights and has access to and training in the use of proper fall protection equipment. This equipment must be used properly including the proper fitting of safety harnesses. When not properly worn, fall arrest equipment may prevent the person wearing it from making contact with the ground, but forces exerted during descent can cause grave, permanent injury.
As a parent or other adult influencer of a young worker, there’s something that you can do that can make a huge difference.
If you suspect or know that they’re working at heights, ask them about it. How high are the heights in which they work? Have they been trained in working at heights? Do they have access to fall protection equipment? Have they been trained in its proper use?
If they have not been properly trained or given access to proper harnesses, remind them of their rights. While most Ontario employers respect safety legislation and follow all the rules to keep their workers safe from harm, not all do. Your working kid needs to know they can refuse unsafe work if they are concerned about their safety. Your guidance and support can play a key role in ensuring they have positive workplace experiences that are rewarding and safe.