The Importance of Fall Protection...

I read a news posting last week about an electrician who plunged to his death while working


on a Los Angeles skyscraper. The article shared that he was not supposed to be above the third floor and had removed his hard hat before falling 53 floors, construction company officials said.

The man, who was in his second day on the project, fell about 800 feet from the unfinished Wilshire Grand Center. The worker had taken off his hard hat and had not been wearing a safety harness because it wasn't required for the bottom floors he was working on.

It's not surprising that the most frequently sited workplace safety violation by Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is Fall Protection.  Each year more than 100,000 injuries and deaths are attributable to work-related falls.

According to the National Safety Council, falls are one of the leading causes of deaths in the workplace. In addition to permanent injuries and lost lives caused by falls, businesses lose billions of dollars each year from significant increases in insurance premiums, workers' compensation claims, product liability costs, and other related expenses.

Fall protection � construction heads the list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2015. With thousands of violations sited annually, falls are a leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries in construction as proper fall protection is not always equipped at sites. Employers must protect workers from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls.

On-the-job injuries cost employers nearly $1 billion per week in payments to injured employees and their medical care providers, according to Liberty Mutual, the leading private provider of workers' compensation insurance in the United States.

With all of the statistics on violations, injuries and deaths, not to mention the associated costs, one would think that fall protection is a safety priority. Yet, it's not what we're seeing on most first time assessments.  On any given day, a visit to any job site in the country will unveil fall protection equipment being used that is potentially dangerous because of wear, neglect, misuse or age/exposure.  Many employers still use improper shock-absorbing lanyards that are not in accordance with ANSI Standards.

OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance. Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat or acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety and harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

OSHA requires employers to:

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.

Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they'll be using on the job.

OSHA has provided numerous materials and resources that employers can use during toolbox talks to train workers on safe practices to avoid falls in construction. Falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs can be prevented and lives can be saved by simply planning, providing the right equipment and training workers on the proper use of the equipment.

Your Arbill safety advisor can help assess your locations for workplace hazards and help prevent the tragedy like the one in Los Angeles last week.  To learn more how you can protect your workers with proper fall protection, contact us or visit our website.

Have a safe day!