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Fall protection an issue in worker’s death at Canada Place in British Columbia

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by Richard Gilbert

The worker who died after falling from a scaffold during the Canada Place roof replacement project late last year was not using a fall-protection system, according to a WorkSafe BC inspection report.

VANCOUVER

The worker who died after falling from a scaffold during the Canada Place roof replacement project late last year was not using a fall-protection system, according to a WorkSafe BC inspection report.

“This employer did not have a written fall-protection plan for the task of closing the ‘mouse hole’ at the northeast corner of the sail-replacement project,” said the inspection report written by Stephen McCollum.

Diego Herrera, 30, a sub-contractor employed by Amherst, N.Y.-based Birdair Inc., fell on the morning of Dec. 2, while on the roof of Canada Place. Herrera was closing up an area in the fabric roof.

He fell nearly 50 feet from a scaffold to the ground and was taken to hospital with life threatening injuries.

Herrera was on life support until his death in hospital two days later.

“The mouse hole area of the sail exposed workers to a fall hazard of 14 meters,” said the inspection report.

“The mouse hole did not have guards or guardrails installed to prevent inadvertent exposure to this fall hazard,” it said.

In addition, the area in front of the hole had many slip and trip hazards.

Investigators found ropes, straps and webbing, electrical cords and construction debris near the mouse hole.

All of these hazards were in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety regulations.

“An area accessible to workers must have guards or guardrails installed if a raised floor, open-sided floor, mezzanine, gallery, balcony, work platform, ramp, walkway, or runway is 122 cm (4 feet) or more above the adjacent floor or grade level,” said the report.

As a result of these violations, WorkSafeBC has determined that there are grounds for imposing an administrative penalty against Birdair.

WorkSafeBC spokesperson Donna Freeman said that on worksites with multiple employers, all employers share responsibility.

“The prime contractor has significant responsibility, unless they have assigned these to the sub-contractor,” she said.

“All parties have legal responsibility, including workers.”

Birdair was hired to replace the sails at Canada Place by Ledcor Construction Ltd., the construction manager for the project on behalf of Canada Place Corporation.

“Without having all the facts, it will not be possible to determine how to respond to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Michael McKenna, executive director of the BC Construction Safety Alliance.

“Until the evidence is before us, it is difficult to know if there is anything the company or workers could do differently.”

The Vancouver Sun reported that Herrera was wearing a rope-access harness at the time of his fall and that there were several tie-off points available at the location.

If true, this leads some to wonder why he wasn’t tied off.

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