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Fall Protection: Keys to Protect Your Employees

Julie Copeland

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This week is OSHA's National Safety Stand Down, which is an effort to raise awareness about the importance of fall prevention and fall protection. This is a voluntary event and serves as an opportunity for employers to have a conversation with employees about hazards, protective methods, safety policies and goals.

Falls are one of the leading causes of deaths in the workplace and 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.

Below are some tips and insights to help you protect your employees and raise awareness about fall protection and prevention.

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What can be done to reduce falls?

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 long shoring 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.

Train everyone to use the equipment safely

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.

Here are some tips you should know about fall protective equipment:

  • Inspect your equipment before each use.
  • Replace defective equipment. If there is any doubt about the safety of the equipment, do not use it and refer questionable defects to your supervisor.
  • Replace any equipment, including ropes, involved in a fall. Refer any questionable defects to your supervisor or check with the manufacturer.
  • Every piece of fall arrest equipment should be inspected and certified at least yearly or more often by a trained and competent person. Keep written records of inspections and approvals.
  • It is advisable to use energy absorbers if the arresting forces of the lanyard alone can cause injury.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about:
  • the purpose of the device,
    • hazard warnings,
    • instructions and limitations on use,
    • the stretch distance of the harness,
    • instructions for fitting and adjusting,
    • recommendations for care (cleaning, maintenance, and storage) and inspection,
    • the purpose and function of the fall arrest indicator,
    • a warning if a fall occurs or inspection reveals an unsafe condition that the device be taken out of service until it has been determined safe for use or destroyed, and
    • instructions for proper application, use, and connecting to full body harness of any evacuation device.

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 representative can help assess your locations for workplace hazards and help build a Culture of Safety in your organization. To learn more how you can protect your workers from falls, and other serious workplace hazards, schedule a free consultation with one of our safety experts today.

Have a safe day!

Topics: Fall protection, fall hazards

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