According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls remain a serious threat to workers across many industries, including the construction and infrastructure sectors. In fact, falls are the leading cause of work-related injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. For these reasons, identifying fall hazards (prevention) and having reliable fall protection procedures in place is critical to keep your workforce safe.
Question is…how safe is your fall protection and prevention?
What is Fall Protection and Prevention?
Fall prevention is a system that eliminates or prevents workers from falling. Fall protection, on the other hand, refers to the controls and processes used to lessen the impact and severity of a potential fall if it does occur.
Fall protection includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, harnesses, and lanyards that meet OSHA standards. OSHA’s Fall Protection standard also requires properly training construction workers to understand how to wear and utilize this PPE.
Fall prevention controls include equipment such as scaffolding, guard rails or barricades; and process controls such as fall prevention planning and fall prevention training for construction workers.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry.”
When is fall protection required?
OSHA requires employers to provide and install fall protection equipment and fall prevention systems when hazards are present on a jobsite. In general, fall protection is required when working on levels measuring six feet tall and higher. Hazards that may require fall protection and prevention systems include:
- Formwork and reinforcing steel
- Hoist areas
- Ramps, runways, and other walkways
- Areas above dangerous equipment
- Steep roofs
- Wall openings
- Unprotected sides and edges
Fall Prevention Best Practices
Make fall prevention a priority at your operation by following OSHA’s comprehensive fall prevention standards and practices. Here are a few fall prevention best practices to incorporate:
Provide fall prevention training – Employers must clearly inform and train employees about potential fall hazards. Make training a regular part of the job to ensure workers are up to date on current standards and help to identify possible fall hazards.
Develop a plan appropriate for the job – Rather than taking a one-size-fits all approach, tailor your fall prevention measures to the unique hazards present on the jobsite. By taking the time to inspect conditions and identify potential hazards, employers can better protect their workers and avoid incidents.
Fall protection equipment – Having the right fall protection and prevention equipment (harnesses, lanyards, lifelines) on the job can determine whether a worker goes home at the end of the shift or goes to the hospital. Invest in the proper equipment for each hazard presents – it’s worth the cost.
Use qualified workers to install equipment – Whether it’s guardrails, scaffolding, or any other fall prevention system component, have them installed by qualified workers who understand the installation requirements.
Avoid shortcuts – On the job, taking shortcuts like putting a ladder on top of scaffolding or temporarily disconnecting from a lifeline are how accidents happen.
Methods of Fall Protection
Fall protection falls into four basic categories: fall arrest, positioning, retrieval, and suspension.
- Fall Arrest – Fall arrest systems are required whenever a worker is exposed to a fall hazard. Common fall arrest equipment includes an anchor point, body harness, and connectors such as a lanyard or self-retracting lifeline.
- Positioning – Positioning systems allow the worker to sit back in their harness while performing work with both hands. The most common application is working from a ladder. This type of protection is not designed to be used to arrest a fall and must be used in conjunction with a fall arrest system, such as body belts, harnesses, and components.
- Retrieval – Also known as a rescue plan, this system covers the post-fall scenario of retrieving a worker who has fallen. Though OSHA doesn’t list or set examples, it’s noted that operations need to have a retrieval plan in place.
- Suspension – A suspension system lowers and supports the worker providing a hands-free work environment. It’s important to note that a fall arrest system must be used alongside the suspension system.
OSHA, Subpart M, & Fall Protection
According to OSHA, Subpart M lays out the requirements and criteria for fall protection in construction workplaces. It also covers protection from falling objects, falls from tripping over or falling through holes, and protection when walking and working around dangerous equipment.
Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off a platform, elevated workstation, or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces and six feet in the construction industry (as previously noted). In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:
- Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk
- Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor, or runway
- If a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment, employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling
- Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harnesses, safety nets, stair railings, and handrails
Looking for top-of-the-line fall prevention and protection services? Trust in the experts at Total Safety! We’ll ensure the safety of your fall protection and that it meets OSHA compliance regulation requirements. Our inspection services include comprehensive testing and inspection of all your fall protection gear. We also gather information to assess your site to determine what fall arrest equipment is needed. For more information, talk to one of our experts at 888-328-6825 or visit our site today. We’re ready to help!