An Unprotected Floor Hole Can Change a Life

by acsaadmin

This letter of apology was written and provided by Needoba Construction Ltd, and published in agreement with the Alberta Department of Justice and Occupational Health and Safety.

Without a doubt, a worker going off to a job in the morning is expected to return in the afternoon.

On August 21, 2012, a tragedy occurred where a worker on our job site did not.

It is with a great deal of sadness to all in our small company, Needoba Construction Ltd., that this occurred and we apologize for not being stricter in adherence to recommended safety guidelines and legislation.

A worker was seriously injured while performing routine tasks on a residential framing site. The worker was moving and placing I-beam floor joists over a second-floor stairway opening of both units of a duplex that was being built, to cover the open hole. While being passed up an I-beam from a worker on the ground, the worker on the second floor stepped backwards and fell through the opening, which had only been partially covered, landing in the basement and receiving serious injuries.

Measures taken after the offence:

Since the incident, the company has ensured that it has done its due diligence by guaranteeing that fall protection measures are constantly in place and are reviewed on a daily basis, if not more often, with all workers on the job site regardless of their duties. Each member of the workforce is instructed to be aware and immediately report any potential danger regarding fall protection.

Experienced supervisors of any construction project should be aware that complacency can happen with routine tasks, so it is important to remind workers to keep their minds on what they are doing and to always be aware of their surroundings. If any worker sees something unsafe, whether it is a condition or distraction, they should always ensure they address it with their supervisor so it can be fixed.

Lessons to be learned:
Not only should a contractor be more on top of their game, but the builder should also provide a more safety-oriented work site. Too often framing contractors are pushed to work on unsafe building sites due to perceived schedule constraints. The beginning of a project is the most demanding part of a builder’s schedule. If the builder in this case had prepared the basement area, the worker may not have been as seriously injured as he was.

To all framing contractors: Do not be pressured into working in an unsafe work environment!
Supervision of young workers by more experienced workers is extremely important. Not everyone’s knowledge or awareness on job sites is the same, and thus we need to ensure we watch out for each other. Mentoring and helping new workers gain the knowledge and experience they need to do the job properly and safely should always be a top priority.

Personal Consequences:
It is a devastating experience to have a person seriously injured while under your employ and the sad feeling of remorse lingers forever when any thought of the injured and his family is considered. No one should ever have to contemplate the potential of suffering life-changing injury while at the work site, and younger, inexperienced employees are most at risk.

Message to the Industry:
Occupational Health and Safety has guidelines and legislation to prevent falls. It may seem difficult to adhere to these rules in all circumstances; however, if the time and effort is taken, accidents may be prevented. Young workers especially need to be constantly reminded and guided, as their judgment and risk tolerance may be higher than the company’s tolerance, which can lead to serious injuries occurring.

There is a financial burden to all and it cannot be stressed enough that contractors must be diligent in maintaining their WCB coverage. Without this comprehensive insurance, everyone involved would be financially devastated. It is your most important duty as an employer to maintain this coverage for the protection of yourself and for every one of your workers. Be aware that WCB premiums are there for a very good reason and, if you make a mistake, like any great insurer, they are there to protect you.

Although Alberta Occupational Health and Safety officers may not be seen at your work sites ensuring the protection of your workers, be aware that they are always in the background, ready to respond and investigate when something goes wrong.

OHS provides guidelines to protect the worker. WCB is there to protect you, the employer. No matter what size of a contractor you are, live up to your responsibilities or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

John “Jack” Needoba
Needoba Construction Ltd.

On January 14, 2016, Needoba Construction Ltd. pled guilty to charges that they failed to ensure, as far as it was reasonably practicable to do so, the health and safety of a worker engaged in the work of the employer, contrary to section 2(1)(a)(i) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The resulting sentence to Needoba Construction was a fine of $11,500 and 18 months’ corporate probation.

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