• A Case for Fall Protection Education

    Fall protection equipmentBureau of Labor Statistics reports that fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 666 workers in 2011, or about 14% of all fatal work injuries. Falls to lower level accounted for 541 of those fatalities.

    In 451 of those cases, the height of the fall was reported. Of those 451 cases, about one in four (115) occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less. Another fourth (118) occurred from a fall of over 30 feet.

    Though we have seen amazing developments in fall protection equipment, including very complex systems, the methods of protecting against falls is still very simple.  The pitfalls I see most company’s get hung up on include:

    1.  Knowing when fall protection is needed

    2.  Understanding what fall protection system will best suit their needs

    3.  Knowing the limitations of the various fall protection systems they are using

    4.  Proper set up and use of the fall protection system and equipment

    As Benjamin Franklin stated, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  With falls, this truly holds form.  Passive Fall Protection systems, including guardrails, sky light cages and hole covers are still our best option as they prevent falls if properly erected.  Another prevention system, which includes the use of body harnesses and connecting devices, is fall restraint.  A restraint system will allow a worker to work near a fall hazard but not reach the fall exposure. Fall restraint is very versatile and can be used in a wide array of applications from hoisting areas, roofing work, aerial and scissor lifts, and order picking equipment.

    In some cases a fall cannot be prevented through the use of passive systems.  In these instances an employer may need to employ more complex systems using harnesses and a variety of different connectors to provide a work positioning or personal fall arrest system.  When these options are not feasible an employer may even be afforded the flexibility to use administrative systems, such as fall protection plans, controlled access zones, warning line systems and safety monitors.

    In any case to prevent falls an employer must:

    Plan: Examine the fall exposures and determine the best system that will protect workers while giving them the flexibility to perform their work.

    Provide: Provide the appropriate fall protection equipment needed.

    Train:  Train workers on the fall hazards in the workplace and the fall protection systems they are using including how to properly erect, dismantle, use and move the systems they will be required to use.

    Doug MillerAbout the Author
    Douglas D. Miller is the President of Occupational Safety Consultants, which was created in 2001. Doug has been involved in safety and health for over 15 years in various industries, including construction, maritime and general industry.For the past 13 years, Doug has taught for the Region II OSHA Education Centers and currently serves as course chairperson for 10 different courses, including the OSHA 500 and OSHA 501, and Construction and General Industry Train-the-Trainer programs.

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