The Evolution of Canadian Fall Arrest Safety

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When talking about fall arrest safety, the first image that most often comes to mind is that of early 20th century construction workers, dangling at great heights in perilous working conditions.

Construction workers in the early 1900's found themselves facing routinely dangerous working conditions with little-to-no safety regulations, personal protective equipment (PPE), or harmonized standards of reimbursement in the case of injury in the workplace.

In honour of the beginning of the 2020's, Danatec by We Know Training is taking a look at 100 years of safety evolution for fall arrest training and equipment available for Canadian workers.

A black and white photo of an iron worker with the Empire State Building in the background.

Where Did Fall Arrest Begin?

One hundred years ago, fall arrest safety did not exist for Canadian workers. Those practices that did exist were crude and often extremely rudimentary. Discipling unsafe work practices amounted to verbal warnings or posted signs - which often went completely ignored. Body belts were rare, and often went unused. At the time safety was thought of as an individual task left up to the worker. Most workers at the time also believed safety devices to be too restrictive and cumbersome to be of value.

In terms of protective equipment, the origins of fall arrest systems can be traced to an unlikely place - mountaineering. Rock climbers and other outdoor climbing enthusiasts have used complex fall protection systems since as early as the late 1800's, which include similar elements seen in industrial fall protection, including anchorage devices, ropes and lanyards, and body harnesses.

Workers who did use fall protection while working from heights were left to use untested and often dangerous systems. Even if using a rudimentary fall arrest system, the early 1900's design could lead to severe internal injuries or death simply from use of the fall arrest device. 

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

It wasn't until the 1970s and 190s that workers using safety body belts became the industry standard for any worker working at great heights.

Prior to the creation of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in 1978 no government entity existed to impose and monitor workplace safety and statistics.

CCOHS was created by an Act of Parliament in 1978 on the belief that all Canadians had a fundamental right to a healthy and safe working environment. 

Under CCOHS legislation, all Canadian workers must now wear appropriate fall protection equipment when working over three metres (10 feet).

A worker equips a modern day fall arrest system.

Working From Heights in 2020

Canadian workers who find themselves working at heights, are more protected now than ever before in history. A combination of workplace and government rules and legislature as well as modern advancements in PPE, means that workers no longer are exposed to the treacherous conditions which once existed.

Fall arrest PPE, such as full body harnesses, have made major improvements to the industry and are now readily available, easy-to-use, and required by all Canadian employers with employees working at heights.

The Online Fall Arrest Protection Course provided through Danatec by We Know Training is designed to guide employers and employees through all aspects of fall arrest, from the different types of fall protection, to what personal protective equipment to use and how to calculate fall clearances. 

Our comprehensive course will explain in detail what you need to know, emphasize key points and test your knowledge retention after each module. After completion of this course you will be issued a certificate of completion to show employers you are trained and understand the importance of fall protection.