Falls are one of the most preventable workplace injuries. Yet, each year hundreds of people are injured, sometimes killed in falls while working on the job.
The majority of these falls are found in the manufacturing, transportation, fuel and construction industries. Every profession presents unique dangers and the goal is to eliminate as much of the risk from each situation as possible.
Commercial and industrial fall prevention is the responsibility of everyone in the industry. Here are three things a company can do to reduce the occurrence of falls in the workplace:
- Identify hazards.
- Train employee’s to recognize and react to hazards appropriately.
- Provide the right fall protection equipment for the job.
When these steps are taken, a company stands an excellent chance of meeting their objective of reducing and potentially eliminating catastrophic falls on the job.
OSHA’s definition of fall hazards shouldn’t be considered exhaustive.
Serious injuries can occur at heights less than six feet (currently, unless the work is performed at a height of six feet or higher, it isn’t covered by OSHA regulations).
Even a single hole with a depth of six feet is covered.
There are also environmental conditions which need to be considered such as changes in lighting and the condition of the surface and access points.
These are just a few examples of potential hazards that companies should take additional steps to address, in the interest of promoting more comprehensive fall protection for employees.
Just because an employer is compliant with OSHA standards doesn’t mean all fall hazards have been addressed.
When it comes to fall protection training there are two classifications of workers: Authorized Person and Competent Person.
An Authorized Person is responsible for identifying fall hazards and enforcing procedures .
A Competent Person is anyone whose work brings them into direct contact with those hazards.
While there are some differences in the training requirements of Authorized and Competent Persons, the basic goal of both programs is to help workers recognize and react properly to fall hazards. This is usually accomplished through a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction.
Fall Protection Equipment
There are a variety of different types of fall protection equipment available to meet the needs of almost any industry. The important thing is for each site to know what they need and how to use it correctly.
Here is an overview of some of the terms that are a common part of the fall protection lexicon:
Horizontal and vertical lifelines protect people working near openings and leading edges by anchoring them to the surface of the roof or elevated platform or to an overhead line or structure.
Guardrails, highly visible thanks to their familiar yellow coating mandated by OSHA, are designed to make workers aware of the presence of a hazard.
Self-closing safety gates help protect employees from falls near access points to elevated surfaces.
Tie off points that are either a permanent part of a roof or can be moved as needed. Lifelines and lanyards can be connected to these anchors to help arrest falls.
When it comes to preventing workplace falls, perfection is a worthwhile goal to pursue. It isn’t possible to make any work-site completely safe. Even when a company takes every possible precaution to protect workers, it is still up to the individual employee to follow procedures and behave responsibility.
By Peter Kavia
CAI Safety Systems
Peter has been a safety expert for almost 20 years and is certified as a Qualified Fall Protection expert. He currently holds the title of Director of Operations for CAI Safety Systems, a custom turnkey fall protection company in Southern California.