Feds Release Updated COHSR Fall Protection Regulations

Federally regulated workers are now required to use fall protection systems and equipment that meet the requirements of the latest published version of the appropriate CSA standard, the federal government said this week.

In a notice posted in the Canada Gazette Pt. II on Wednesday, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) released the much-anticipated update to the fall protection regulations found under Part XII of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR).

The new regulations require most fall protection PPE to meet the requirements of the latest version of the appropriate CSA standard. The new regulations also:

  • Increase the working height at which an employee must use a fall protection system from 2.4m to 3m;
  • Provide new requirements for fall protection plans, including the requirement to include information about PPE storage and maintenance;
  • Permit the use of ANSI-approved headwear; and
  • Establish new regulations for use of a fall hazard zone system (formerly called a “control zone system”).

“[These amendments] modernize the section on fall-protection systems in order to properly reflect industry standards and practices and to reference newly developed standards,” ESDC said in a regulatory impact analysis statement that accompanied the publication of the regulatory amendments.

The federal department added that other changes made through the amendments aim to “align federal requirements under Part XII with those under other parts of the COHSR, the [Canada Labour] Code and provincial laws.”

STAC has confirmed with ESDC that the updated regulations are now in effect following their publication in the Canada Gazette this week.

Updated PPE Requirements
For many in the communication tower industry, the most immediate impact of the amended regulations could be the requirement to ensure that the fall protection systems and equipment their employees use meet the requirements of the latest version of the applicable CSA standard. As per the notice, this requirement applies to equipment covered under any of the following CSA standards:

  • Z259.16, Design of active fall-protection systems
  • Z259.17, Selection and use of active fall-protection equipment and systems
  • Z259.1, Body belts and saddles for work positioning and travel restraint
  • Z259.2.2, Self-retracting devices
  • Z259.2.3, Descent devices
  • Z259.2.4, Fall arresters and vertical rigid rails
  • Z259.2.5, Fall arresters and vertical lifelines
  • Z259.10, Full body harnesses
  • Z259.11, Personal energy absorbers and lanyards
  • Z259.12, Connecting components for personal fall-arrest systems (PFAS)
  • Z259.13, Manufactured horizontal lifeline systems
  • Z259.14, Fall restrict equipment for wood pole climbing
  • Z259.15, Anchorage connectors

“[A]ny reference in this Part to a standard is a reference to that standard as amended from time to time,” the updated regulations read near the top of Part XII. “Any amendment to a CSA Group standard or a UL standard that is incorporated by reference in this Part is effective on the 30th day after the day on which the amendment is published by the CSA Group or by UL, as the case may be, in both official languages.”

Notably, the amended regulations will also permit the use of ANSI-approved headwear for the first time, as protective headwear must now confirm to either the CSA Z94.1 standard (Industrial protective headwear- Performance, selection, care and use) or ANSI Z89.1 (American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection).

Fall Protection Plans
While most, if not all, Canadian tower industry professionals are already using fall protection plans as a matter of routine, the new amendments to the Part XII regulations outline specific requirements for all fall protection plans. This may require some new habits.

Among other requirements, the amended regulations says fall protection plans “must include, in annex, a copy of any manufacturer’s instructions with respect to the storage, maintenance, inspection, testing, fitting, installation, use or dismantling of equipment that is used in a fall-protection system and that is provided by an employer.”

If a component or piece of equipment used in a fall protection systems does not have manufacturer’s instructions relating to these equipment handling concerns, the employer is then required to identify how those materials will be handled during each of these processes as part of the fall protection plan.

According to the regulations, all fall protection plans must also include:

  • the hazards that have been identified for each work area and each activity to be carried out at the work place;
  • the fall-protection systems that have been chosen to protect against the identified hazards;
  • if a personal fall-protection system is used, the anchorage to be used during the work;
  • if a fall-arrest system is used, the clearance distance below each work area; and
  • the rescue procedures to be followed if a person falls.

Fall Hazard Zone Systems
Another significant change under the amended regulations is the new requirements for use of a fall hazard zone system, which the industry has previously called a “control zone system.” According to the new regulations, employers must follow a hierarchy of fall protection systems, which places fall hazard zones as the system of last resort.

“[F]all-protection systems … are to be chosen in consultation with the work place committee or the health and safety representative, as appropriate for the work area and activity in question, taking into account the following order of priority: (a) passive fall-protection system; (b) fall-restraint system; (c) fall-arrest system; and (d) fall hazard zone system,” the revised regulations read.

If a company is going to use a fall hazard zone system on a job site, the new regulations also spell out a number of requirements, including the installation of a “raised demarcation line” the runs “along the border between the fall hazard zone and any other work area.” The raised line must be at least 900 mm high, but no more than 1,100 mm, the regulations add.

If anyone will be working in or passing through the fall hazard zone, additional requirements kick in, including the “presence of a fall hazard zone monitor whose exclusive duties are to (i) supervise the fall hazard zone whenever an activity is being carried out there, and (ii) ensure that the requirements of the fall-protection plan are respected.”

Further Regulatory Changes
While this overview touches on some of the most pertinent regulatory changes that could impact members of the communication tower industry, it’s important that each company review the amended regulations in full to ensure they are abiding by all of the recent changes.

Click here to view the complete Canada Gazette Pt. II notice published Wednesday, which includes the text of the amended sections of the regulations, as well as detailed descriptions of each change.

STAC Documents
Finally, STAC is aware of changes to some STAC documents that have been necessitated by the release of the amended fall protection regulations. In particular, STAC will be working in the weeks and months ahead to update one of the most recently released STAC documents, Telecommunications Rooftop Site Access, Visits and Work. Notably, the revision of this document will review the hierarchy of fall protection systems to ensure that STAC’s hierarchy is consistent with the new federal regulations.