May 7-11 marks the fifth annual National Safety Stand-Down. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with support from the National Safety Council, developed this weeklong event to help raise awareness of fall hazards nationwide in an effort to stop fatalities and injuries on the jobsite. Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 370 of the 991 construction fatalities recorded in 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
In recognition of National Safety Stand-Down, here are some helpful tips for creating and implementing fall protection plans in the workplace, courtesy of our loss control professionals.
What is Fall Protection?
Fall protection, also called fall prevention, refers to any means used to protect workers from falls during work where such hazards exist. This includes areas like stairways, raised platforms, roofs and the use of ladders in general. In these areas, engineering or design measures are used to help reduce the fall hazards; however, further measures such as fall protection devices like lanyards, harnesses and guardrails must be used to help reduce the risk of falls.
Develop a Fall Protection Plan
Preventing falls in the workplace often begins with having a plan – a set of written procedures. Your plan should clearly lay out procedures for items such as fall prevention training, safe equipment use and inspection of the worksite for any potential hazards.
Make the Fall Protection Plan a Part of Your Safety Program
Include your fall protection plan as part of your workplace safety program. Many successful programs contain the following elements:
- Education of employees through training programs that focus on fall protection practices.
- Business owners and management show they are committed to workplace safety as they are to other aspects of the business.
- Employees and their supervisors are involved in the safety program and fall protection plan, and held accountable for following workplace safety practices.
- Investigate any fall-related injuries or near-miss accidents, and keep a record of these events for educational and prevention purposes.
- Regular inspection of the fall protection equipment, replacing worn or broken equipment as needed.
- Evaluate your plan regularly to identify how well it’s performing and if any updates are needed.
Provide the Proper Safety and Protection Elements in the Workplace
Employers must provide their employees with the proper equipment and fall prevention measures in order to avoid fall-related injuries. This might include items such as:
- Body harnesses – Straps that may be secured about the employee in a manner that will distribute the fall arrest forces over at least the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest and shoulders with means for attaching it to other components of a personal fall arrest system.
- Guardrail systems – A top rail 42 plus or minus 3 inches high, a toeboard 4 inches high, and a midrail located between the top rail and toeboard. A guardrail system is capable of withstanding a force of 200 pounds in any outward or downward direction on the toprail and a force of 150 pounds in any outward or downward direction on the midrail without failure.
- Personal fall arrest systems – A system used to arrest an employee in a fall from a working level. It consists of an anchorage, connectors, a body harness, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline or suitable combinations of these. All lanyards and other fall arrest devices have locking snap hooks.
- Safety net systems – A net that is installed as close as practicable under the walking/working surface on which employees are working, but not more than 30 feet below such surface.
- Lanyards/Lifelines – A flexible line of rope, wire rope or strap that generally has a connector at each end for connecting the body belt or body harness to a deceleration device, lifeline or anchorage.
Check out this helpful guide for more detailed information regarding fall protection.
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