Strata Smart Series: Climbing the Ladder to Safety

Climbing the Ladder to Safety


New Requirements in Working at Heights

Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of injuries to construction workers in BC.

As a result, much has changed in the last ten years with regards to WorksafeBC’s requirements and restrictions for ladder work.

One of the biggest changes is the restriction of ladder use to only when there is no hazard to the worker. This includes limiting ladder work to light duty tasks and for sporadic, short-term work.

Many tasks that were regularly performed from ladders in the past are no longer acceptable safe practices under WorksafeBC’s new guidelines. It is important owners and strata councils are aware of how these changes can impact future projects they might be considering.

Determining Safety

To determine how these new guidelines apply to painting starts with understanding WorksafeBC’s definition of light duty tasks and sporadic, short-term work.

Light duty is a broad term used by WorksafeBC. While they don’t specifically list tasks defined as light duty, they do state that if equipment or materials need to be raised, the risk increases and is no long considered light duty. While light duty could be applied to actual painting, if sanding and prepping of wood is required, it would likely no longer meet the definition and the risk would increase.

Short term is defined by WorksafeBC as tasks taking less than 15 minutes. Any task taking longer increases the risk to moderate. If the task will take longer than one day to complete, it is deemed high-risk and alternative methods of access must be found. WorksafeBC also includes the term sporadic in their guidelines for ladder work. This eliminates any interpretation that simply coming down from a ladder after 15 minutes and then going back up restarts the clock.

The Impact on the Bid Process

These changes in safe practices and ladder use guidelines can have a significant impact on safely executing a painting project for your strata corporation.

The recently upheld ruling by the British Columbia Appeals Court agreed with WorksafeBC that owners have the responsibility to ensure work is performed safely.

Strata councils are required to ensure that work done at heights are meeting the requirements of WorksafeBC’s safety standards. This includes determining risks, ensuring contractors have a safety plan and that it is adhered to.

For most power washing, carpentry work and exterior painting projects, using either boom lifts, scaffolding or both when working at heights will be the safest option.

Impact on Price

It is important for councils to ensure their bid specification documents include requirements for fall protection and safe execution of the job in the bid price. That would require contractors to submit a plan at the time of bid outlining how work done at heights will be done. This can provide council with early assurance the contractor is making safety a priority and budgeting for the it in his price.

When safety plans are not a required part of the bid document, strata councils can find themselves with bid prices that vary significantly. This can be challenging when comparing bids and looking for the best value bid.

Undoubtedly the use of lift equipment and scaffolding will increase the cost of completing the job and councils should be examining current deficiency reports to ensure these costs have been incorporated into the capital planning budgets.


The risks for not including safety in your requirements for contractors can be significant.

The worst case scenario would be a fatal or severe injury of a worker while on your property. No one wants that to happen.

If there is an incident on your property and WorksafeBC conducts an investigation, owners can be found partially liable and fined, alongside the contractor.

The other risk is having your project shut down in progress. WorkSafeBC has been ramping up their random onsite inspections and continue to do so.

Since most paint projects are significant expenditures for strata corporations funding is usually drawn from contingency funds and approved at through votes by owners at special meetings. A random on-site inspection by WorksafeBC could potentially shut down a project if proper ladder safety and fall protection are not being adhered to. This could potentially put stratas in a position of facing unfunded expenditures to complete the project with proper scaffolding or boom lifts that were not originally budgeted for.

Requiring safety plans at the time of bid will protect strata corporations and its owners from exposure and risk. It is smart planning for all councils to consider.



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