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Safety Standards Reminder to Work Safely at Heights in Quebec

The main goal of Québec’s Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety adopted in 1979 is to prevent workplace accidents. The positions held by employees working at height on worksites are among the professions at risk: that’s why there are specific safety standards that govern the conditions of working at height in Québec.

Work done on scaffolding

  • Inspection obligation

According to Québec law, scaffolding at least fifteen feet high must obtain an inspection certificate signed by the inspector designated for that purpose and countersigned by the clerk of the municipality.

  • Guardrails

The regulation also requires that the floors of the scaffolding be equipped with guardrails on the outside and around any uncovered opening. However, guardrails are not required when the floor of the scaffolding is located less than 3 metres (or 10 feet) above a sufficiently large, solid surface free from any object that could be dangerous.

In case it’s impossible to install guardrails, the employer must ensure that workers are attached to the scaffolding.

Working on a ladder

According to the regulation, the ladder must be placed on a stable base, be securely attached, and exceed the upper level by at least 900 millimetres. The regulation also requires that workers’ hands be free to climb or descend the ladder.

Safety harness

According to the Regulation Respecting Occupational Health and Safety and the Safety Code for the Construction Industry, wearing a safety harness is mandatory for any worker exposed to a fall from a height of over 3 metres, unless they have another system that provides them with equivalent protection or are protected by a safety net or are merely passing through an access point or an exit. The harness must belong to the P class, which includes harnesses designed for work at height.

Personal protective equipment in the absence of collective protection

In the absence of collective protection equipment to prevent falls from a height (guardrails, safety nets), each worker must use personal protective equipment that includes:

  • an anchor point (with a resistance of at least 18 kN);
  • a full harness
  • a device that connects the harness to the anchor point: either a retractor equipped with a shock absorber or a lanyard no more than 1.2 metres long equipped with a shock absorber and a rail, cord, or cable slider.

Safe movement

The Regulation Respecting Occupational Health and Safety requires compliance with various provisions for movement:

  • Vertically, fixed ladders must be equipped with a cage or a fall protection device that conforms to the standards for fall arresters, vertical lifelines, and rails when there is a risk of falling from a height of over 6 metres.
  • Horizontally, a worker who is moving must possess a system of horizontal lifelines designed by an engineer with a document available at the workplace that attests to this.
  • For movements along an inclined plane:
    • If the slope is less than 30°, in the absence of a collective protection system (guardrails, safety net), personal protective equipment is required when the worker has to move along an inclined plane. In addition, if the work surface is slippery, the worker must possess a positioning system.
    • If the slope is greater than 30°, the use of a positioning system – such as a platform, a lifting device, scaffolding, or a restraint cable – is recommended, along with personal protective equipment.

In addition to complying with the standards imposed by the laws and regulations, it’s up to the employer to ensure that workers receive the necessary training to be able to use the personal protective equipment properly and to provide the necessary rescue measures in case of a fall.

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