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Winter Construction Safety Topics

Winter is here, and so are our winter construction safety topics…

Building owners, constructors, employers, supervisors, contractors, and workers may not fully realize just how serious fall hazards can be when working on, around or near the edge of a skylight on a flat or angled roof.

First let’s start off with some quick tips from our expert trainers:

Chainsaw Safety During Winter: “Clear your work space of ice and snow. Wear clothing that doesn’t impede your working ability but still keeps you warm. Drink lots of water still.” – David B.

Before The Snow Comes – Mark Your Safety Hazards!

In 2018, a worker fell through a skylight while performing snow removal duties just after they finished their lunch…

They didn’t know the danger was there exactly.

The workers were sent to clear snow off a sloped roof where a skylight was present.

But, they were not wearing or using fall arrest equipment, and did not hold a valid record of training for working at heights.

Those two things spelt disaster.

The worker (luckily) got to keep his life even though he fell more than 17 feet.

According to the Ministry of Labour, the court case revealed several shocking factors in the conviction:

  • The sloped roof where the occurrence happened was accumulating weight in snow
  • Because of discovered structural defects, the snow became a priority to be removed
  • During their third time clearing the snow from the shed, a fall occurred – right through a skylight
  • The skylight was just an opening in the roof, with a piece of corrugated plastic covering it
  • Valid working at heights training was not used
  • Appropriate safety guards were not used 
  • The incident was 100% preventable

That morning of the accident, they did have a group talk about what needed to be done and mentioned the openings in the roof, however, there were no guardrails, no markers of any kind, and most shockingly – no travel restraint or any type of system was in place to PREVENT the fall from happening.

This is why we are saying, please – mark everything before the snow comes – and make sure everyone on a site that involves heights has working at heights (even if you’re not expected to be going up anywhere – read here for more information).

Mark where the hazards are, where the gas connections are, where the water mains are, where everything is that if it were to get hit by a snow plow or walked on, it would cause an issue for all who visit and work on the premise.

Would guardrails, identifiers, or travel restraint system have helped to avoid injury, fines, and conviction?


Before the snow falls – identify and mark off things like water and gas connections.

Place borders around where you want snow removal procedures to avoid.

If you have skylights, definitely mark those and make sure they are safe – you can even add a guard around it! [Read more about that here].

…and please speak up if they are covered by nothing but plastic or any other material that doesn’t meet Ministry standards.

Working at Heights Hazards

Falls happen too often – and the reasons behind them are mostly because someone didn’t do what they were entirely supposed to.

In fact: The number of accidental deaths in Canada jumped by 5305 in 2020 mostly due to a rise in deaths from falls.

These types of falls can result in critical injuries or even death, PLUS fines, site shut downs, and lengthily costly court matters.

For our example regarding skylights, which we are focusing on inside this article, workers should not be assigned to work near a skylight without appropriate fall protection measures and procedures to ensure their safety.

Real Stories: Another Avoidable Death

In Nova Scotia, there was a deadly case where a worker fell THIRTY FEET through a skylight that was covered by a rigid Styrofoam board.

While helping to move a ladder, the late Mr. John Dillman was helping to move a ladder on the roof right near an improperly covered skylight opening. He then fell backwards into the nearby skylight opening that was covered by something that was not capable of sustaining his weight. He succumbed to his injuries after his 30 foot fall onto icy concrete.

His employer and superiors should have taken into account the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Every precaution that was reasonable in these circumstances was not taken.

The number one thing that went wrong was that there was no working at heights training that was being used.

There were no guardrails and anything else that could have been done was simply not.

During the trial, the judge considered if whoever was in authority of the project failed to take precautions that would have otherwise saved a life including:

  • Did they make sure that proper fall protection was put into place?
  • Was the roof covered in snow and ice?
  • Did they use guardrails?
  • Was the skylight an unsecured opening?
  • Were the floor slab edges guarded?
  • Did fall protection exist around the edges of the roof?

No to all of the above in this case.

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