Falls are the most common causes of work injuries and deaths. In calendar year 2016 about 38.7% of worker fatalities in construction were due to falls. Source. Being proactive by implementing compliant methods of fall protection and fall prevention can save lives and prevent injuries. Consequently, it is important to be aware of basic fall protection rules and facts. Here are some basic fall protection facts to consider.
(1) Identify Fall Hazards
Falls occur due to various reasons including: losing balance, tripping, losing a grip on a support, stepping backwards, strong winds or dangerous weather, stepping into a hole, support moving or breaking, irregular or damaged work surfaces. Employers can be proactive in reducing work injuries and deaths by identifying and eliminating fall hazards and installing fall protection systems. Further, employers can educate workers to follow safe practices, properly use equipment, and being proactive and aware of fall hazards.
(2) Utilize Fall Protection Systems
Three categories of fall protection systems include prevention, restraint, and arrest.
A fall prevention system aims to prevent falls from occurring by using guardrails and barriers. Consider guardrail systems such as non-penetrating guardrail systems, permanent rail systems, and customized guardrail solutions. Barrier considerations include industrial safety gates, skylights, and enduraline warning lines.
A fall restraint system stops workers from falling by using a tether which restrains a worker’s range of motion. The worker is not allowed to move far enough to reach a leading edge.
A general fall arrest system is a net or cushion system beneath a working area. A personal fall arrest system is composed of an anchorage connector, body wear, and connecting device. Such a system allows a worker to fall a short distance before stopping their fall.
(3) Comply with OSHA Guidelines
OSHA provides information about how to protect workers from falls, such as using guardrails, safety nets, personal fall protection systems, adopting safe work practices, and providing appropriate training. In some situations, protection is provided by “limiting the number of workers exposed” to falls by using warning lines, designated areas, and control zones. Source. Further, OSHA guidelines include the following fall safety practices:
- Protection is required for workers in construction sites when working above six feet above a lower level and for workers in general industry when working above four feet above a lower level. Fall protection systems are required to prevent workers from falling into or onto hazardous machines or other equipment regardless of the fall distance.
- Providing workplace conditions free from known dangers and establishing fall protection systems before work begins.
- Providing personal protective equipment to workers at no cost to them.
- Training workers about workplace hazards in a language that they can understand.
As you prepare for or review your fall protection program, keep these basic fall protection facts to keep in mind. For questions and quotes, reach out to the EDGE Fall Protection team.