Occupational safety is primary to ensuring a productive and positive workplace. Ensuring that all aspects of workplace safety are present and implemented properly is the responsibility of every business owner. The safety of a company’s workforce not only comes in the form of providing the right knowledge and training but also by ensuring that the right equipment is present at the work site and all protocols are followed meticulously.
This is especially needed at workplaces where employees work at heights, such as at a construction site or general industry workplaces. Over 30% of accidents leading to fatalities on the jobsite are fall related injuries.
At such sites, fall protection systems like harnesses are often relied on to ensure safety. However, they aren’t the only things to be taken into consideration. It is also important to understand each and every aspect of fall protection and what all things are needed to ensure complete fall protection.
Types of Fall Protection
Fall protection is used across industry and they are broadly categorized into three types:
- Fall arrest: These protect workers at heights
- Fall restraints: These are used when workers operate on the edge of a hazard
- Fall prevention: These minimize the risk by charting out a proper safety plan when working at heights
The ABCs of Fall Protection
Most people’s knowledge about fall protection ends with using a harness. However, the ABCs of fall protection are three more important aspects that every employer and employee must be well-versed with. Anchorage, body support and connectors add a comprehensive layer of protection to workers. Knowing them can ensure that no accidents occur at a workplace. Let’s look at them in detail:
Anchors or anchor points are secure points of attachment. They can vary depending on the industry, job type or type of installation and structure, but they are an integral part of worker safety.
It can either be a structural anchor like an I-beam, or concrete structure or a connector that is specifically made for fall protection. It is this anchor that workers attach themselves to, providing the main strong point for their personal fall arrest system.
They should be installed in such a way that they have the capability of supporting the intended loads and delivering sufficient safety factors for fall arrest.
This is usually a full-body harness that distributes the fall forces on the upper thighs, pelvis, shoulders and chest. They are the provider of a connection point to the workers working at heights. Earlier, harnesses were considered a type of body wear suitable to work in fall arrest.
However, these are no longer considered appropriate and only full-body harnesses are recommended to be used. Full-body support systems use a D-ring to hook the workers into the fall protection system. Such harnesses are made of fire-proof and non-conductive material to provide complete protection.
These are shock-absorbing lanyards or self-retracting lifelines that connect the worker’s harness to the anchorage point. These protect workers from falling into a hazard, so they should be short and have a shock-absorbing functionality to minimize the impact of the fall. These must be made of dependable material and must be checked regularly to ensure they function properly.
A Deeper look into Fall Protection – The DEFs
Looking further into fall protection, the DEFs (descent and rescue, education, and fall protection for tools) are equally important. Let’s look at them in detail.
Descent and Rescue
Having a rescue plan is important or, at least the workers must be equipped with personal fall arrest systems so that they can rescue themselves. This is where descent and rescue equipment comes into the picture.
These systems include ascenders and descenders that help workers get to safe positions either by themselves or with the help of others. To properly use this equipment, some form of training might be required, so employers must ensure it is provided to all users.
Just as how important it is to use fall protection equipment, it is equally important to have the right knowledge about them and how to use them. It is important for users to clearly understand the requirements of fall clearance and how the equipment is designed and how they actually extend, tear apart, and sometimes deform to absorb fall force.
One great way to knowing everything about personal fall arrest systems and how to best use them is through training programs and a fall protection plan. Several fall protection training programs are available that employers can provide to their workforce and ensure they remain safe while being productive.
Fall Protection for Tools
Workplace safety is not just about safeguarding workers from falling from a height but also providing workers and visitors from falling objects and other dangerous equipment, a common occurrence at construction sites. Fall protection for tools is something that every employer needs to consider.
These types of fall arrest systems are similar to fall protection of workers with anchorage, connectors, body support, etc. where objects are secured to prevent fall hazards.
When to Maintain or Replace your Fall Protection
Knowing how to maintain and when to replace your fall protection is extremely important. Using an ill-maintained or expired fall protection is just as bad as not using one at all.
Depending on the industry you are using your fall protection for, the time period it will last can vary from six months to six years.
Some safety equipment can last up to ten years as well depending on the quality and frequency of usage. However, you must keep these things in mind when thinking of maintaining and replacing them:
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, some harnesses require replacement even when they look fine
- If the label specifies a date, it should be followed
- Check for its deterioration. Inspect your equipment to ensure you know when to replace
- If it has been exposed to fire, moisture, or daylight for long, then replace it
We hope that you are now fully aware about the ways to protect employees from workplace hazards in the most efficient manner possible.
Offering personal protective equipment and maintaining fall restraint systems, along with providing fall protection training not only help ensure workplace safety but also enhance employee satisfaction and productivity!
All in all, deploying fall protection systems ensures a win-win situation for everyone involved.
OSHA Regulations & Standards for Fall Protection
Falls are one of the main reasons for serious work-related injuries and even deaths. Looking at the seriousness of fall protection, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) has developed a set of rules and safety standards for the provision of personal fall arrest systems that must be followed to enhance worker safety.
According to OSHA, “employers must ensure that the workplaces provide enough safety precautions to prevent workers from falling off of scaffolds, overhead platforms, elevated workstations, etc.
OSHA fall protection regulations require that proper safety measures are provided at all elevations of four feet in general industries, five feet in shipyards, six feet on construction sites, and eight feet in long shoring operations. It also requires
- Ensure all workers are protected from falling
- Provide safe working conditions with minimal fall hazards
- Keep the work floors clean and dry to the extent possible
- Provide personal protective equipment to all workers
- Provide training about workplace safety and fall protection plan in the language they best understand
Frequently Asked Questions about fall protection safety
When should employers install fall protection measures?
Employers must install fall protection measures when their workers are working in conditions where falling from a height or onto a hazardous material is possible. Different industries have varying requirements for height and employers must be aware of that.
What are the main ingredients of fall protection?
You must be aware of the ABCs of fall protection – Anchorage, body support and connectors. Combined, they provide proper fall protection and must be ensured they are properly used. Additionally, the DEFs – descent and rescue, education, and fall protection for tools should also be understood for comprehensive protection.
What should I do if I see my fall protection equipment damaged?
Maintenance of fall protection equipment is necessary. So, if you find any kind of damage in your equipment, it should immediately be removed from service and replaced with a new one.
So, fall protection is an integral part of any workplace where workers either work at a height or in conditions where they can fall onto a hazardous material. Knowing your fall protection and following the protocols is key to ensuring that your workers remain safe while at work.