Working at height and CNESST


CNESST safety measures when working at height with ladders must be followed whenever a worker climbs more than 3 meters. Falls from height in the construction sector in Québec cause about 4,000 occupational injuries per year. And in 2022, among the cases accepted by the CNESST, there was a 61% increase in work accidents and a 15% increase in deaths! This shows the importance of taking the risk of falls from height very seriously!

Risks of Falls from Height with Ladder

In the construction sector, workers climbing ladders to perform tasks are exposed to falls from height and injuries. Falls from more than 3 meters can lead to sprains, strains, limb or spinal fractures, internal or external injuries, as well as head trauma. The worst falls can cause paralysis or even death.

Employer and Employee Obligations

On construction sites, ladders may be used to access roofs or to perform work on walls, gutters, windows, etc. They may also be used for electrical, plumbing, ventilation, or painting work.

Whether the ladder is used to access a high surface or as a temporary workstation (even for less than 1 hour), the CNESST indicates that both employers and employees must apply the required safety measures to prevent falls from a height of more than 3 meters. 

It is a joint responsibility and, in the event of non-compliance, the CNESST has the right to halt work and prosecute the offenders.

Prevention of Falls from Height

To ensure safety on construction sites, the CNESST imposes the following safety measures when using ladders.

When the ladder is used to access a surface or equipment at height, it must be supported on a solid base (i.e., on a stable, firm, and level surface). The base of the ladder must be firmly held in place with braces or secured to a structure or a stake driven into the ground. The feet of the ladder must be non-slip.

The ladder must also extend at least 35 inches above the top support point, and it must be “securely attached” (with a ladder stabilizer or another method) to prevent it from moving. Both the base and the top of the ladder must therefore be secured to prevent any movement, as anchoring only the base will not prevent the top of the ladder from sliding right or left.

The workers must lean the top of the ladder against a surface strong enough to withstand their weight. The top of the ladder should never be leaned against a gutter, a glass pane, or any other surface that could move, break, or shatter. 

Using an aluminum ladder stabilizer allows the ladder to be securely immobilized and leaves a few inches of space between it and the wall (or roof edge). This also gives workers freedom of movement and prevents damage to gutters or roof edges.

When the ladder is leaned against a smooth surface like a wall, it must be held in place by a wall grip or an aluminumladder stabilizer designed for this purpose. The ladder stabilizer is installed on the back of the ladder (at the top) to hold it firmly.

When workers use the ladder as a workstation and are more than 3 meters above the ground, they must use a harness. They must also set up the ladder on a stable base and stand at the centre of the rungs, always vertically. They must also monitor the area surrounding the ladder or place a safety barrier around it. They can also ask a colleague to hold the base of the ladder and monitor the surrounding area.

Workers should not stand higher than the level indicated on the ladder’s warning label, and they should not climb the top 4 rungs or more than 34 inches below the top of the ladder (whether it is a single or extension ladder).

When workers climb onto a roof using a ladder, the employer must install guardrails to eliminate any risk of falls from height, or use another means to ensure the same level of safety. If this is not possible, workers must use a harness attached to an anchorage point.

For fall protection during work at height on construction sites, refer to the Safety Code for the Construction Industry (RLRQ, chapter S-2.1, r. 4) and the Regulation respecting occupational health and safety (RLRQ, chapter S-2.1, r. 13).

Ladder Stabilizer Designed for Construction Sites

The PROTECMI professional ladder stabilizer was specifically designed to keep ladders immobile and safe on construction sites. It even won the CNESST Grand Innovation Prize in 2020.

This aluminum ladder stabilizer is very versatile: it is adjustable depending on the type of roofs or according to the wall on which the ladder is leaned.

Order Your Ladder Stabilizer!

To order your aluminum ladder stabilizer to increase safety on your site or for work at height on your house, visit the Buy section of the PROTECMI Website.

Your residential or professional ladder stabilizer will be delivered within a maximum of 72 hours (to your home or business, throughout Québec).

For delivery elsewhere in Canada, please contact us at 450-753-1010 to proceed with the purchase.