It might seem like a no brainier to need fall protection when working from heights. Let’s see, would you rather fall from a building or just dangle from it? Either way, it hurts. Except, when someone falls without adequate protection, they are more likely to die. Fall protection violations top the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Top 10 list each year, and the federal agency aims to change that. Having the correct fall protection equipment is equally essential as well as reinforcing safety and efficiency through frequent program evaluations and consistent training.
Adequate Fall Protection
“I’m wearing fall protection, isn’t that enough?” No. Not all fall protection is created equal and many violations occur when a worker has fall protection but is not using it properly. This can damage fall protection equipment and does not protect a worker from injury or death. Sifting through OSHA’s list of enforcement data, a common example is a worker up 10 feet and wearing a fall protection harness, but the equipment is not tied off. Another common example is using railings and restraint equipment that are not specific to the work environment.
In the construction industry, falls in general round out the top five high-risk activities for workers and are the leading cause of fatalities. To tackle the fall protection conundrum, OSHA is stepping up fall protection education and demonstrations and looking for partnerships to help solidify the message.
“Falls can be prevented when employers train and educate workers about these hazards properly and provide appropriate protection,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Loren Sweatt. “OSHA has tools readily available for employers and workers to address the prevention of fall hazards.”
When working from heights, workplaces should have appropriate safety measures and relevant safety equipment. OSHA has guidelines for fall protection standards and compliance. The federal agency also hosts a Safety Stand-Down each May to help remind managers and workers of the importance of preventing falls through training, education, and having the correct equipment.
Facets of Safety
Fall protection doesn’t start or stop with equipment. Here are four safety measures to focus on for improving fall protection:
- Invest in proper tools: Fully equip workers with the railings and restrain equipment and fall arrest systems.
- Train: New and experienced workers both need to keep abreast of the law and best industry practices, not just OSHA. Revisit the ANSI Z359 Fall Protection Code to see if current fall protection plans line up. Focus on fall protection equipment and how to use it properly.
- Organization: A clean work space increases safety. Organize fall protection for worker needs and remove obstructions to safety equipment. Properly store power tools and tidy up other potential workplace hazards such as cords, debris, and materials that are not in use.
- Signs and labels: Placing signs and labels throughout a work area or job site help keep safety in front of workers’ attention to make a clear, responsible choice for their safety and others’.
Keeping staff out of harm’s way doesn’t have to be dangerous or expensive. Simply engaging in proper training and regular safety progression will support worker health and efficiency. From keeping equipment in good condition to placing signs in high-risk areas, make a fall protection program that develops good habits. Meticulously go over what should be a part of a Fall Protection Program, employ solid solutions, and reap the benefits.
Reinforce fall protection plans. Download this free guide to help mitigate workplace slips, trips, and falls.