While people fall year-round, the freezing season is the perfect time to think about fall prevention. Fall hazards such as slippery leaves, wet pavement and frozen water are common in the colder season. They can't be ignored, even when businesses are extremely busy.
The injuries sustained from a fall can range from the bruised ego to death. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,333 fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2019. Out of the 5,333 fatalities, approximately 900 or 17% of the total were the result of slips, trips and falls. In fact, OSHA’s top-cited violation in the federal FY 2020 year was fall protection (Commonly Used Statistics | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov).
The good news is that falls are entirely preventable.
Awareness of the potential for a fall-related accident during this time of year can identify weaknesses in a safety program. It provides a moment to reassess associate habits and beliefs and shift any unwanted behaviors, as well as create a reliable plan to avoid these risks.
While using a few safety precautions and ensuring that equipment is up to standard will solve most issues, here are some basic guidelines:
Every user must be trained before they are allowed to use any fall protection. Here are some guidelines for an effective training program.
Not only can employees learn a lot about fall protection via these annual training sessions, but the company can also identify and adjust any training requirements. Thus, not only does it benefit the company, but OSHA mandates proper training as well.
Fall protection training can be classified into four categories: awareness, authorized-user, competent person, and qualified-person training. Every employee may not need the same level of fall protection training, but every employee can benefit from minimizing fall hazards.
The next phase is identifying the threat in your workplace and understanding what type of fall protection equipment and training you should put in place.
When it comes to establishing proper fall protection, it's best to start with the hierarchy of controls that can assist this process. Then, if possible, remove the fall threat risk altogether.
This may mean structural changes necessary to remove the risk entirely. If this is not possible, you should consider using engineering controls, such as handrails or other engineered solutions. Last you may be able to address fall risks via administrative controls, policies, procedures, or work instructions. However, if the fall hazard cannot be removed, a fall arrest system may be implemented.
You may hear the terms "fall restraint" and "fall arrest" used interchangeably by individuals outside the industry. However, they are not the same thing. A fall restraint should be used near the leading edges of rooflines and aerial lifts or flatbed trucks or trailers.
Although both systems use a harness to secure the worker, a fall restraint system uses a positioning lanyard that prevents the worker from getting too close to the roofline or too close to the edge. To be clear, a fall arrest is a system used to stop an actively falling person. You may need to employ both fall restraint and fall arrest systems depending on the specifics of the project and workplace.
To properly use a fall arrest system, you must also understand anchorage points requirements. For instance, all fall arrest systems require an anchorage point to support at least 5,000 pounds per worker attached or two times the maximum arrest force in an engineered system.
A lanyard is part of a fall restraint system that prevents a person from getting too close to the edge of the working platform. In fall arrest systems, lanyards are designed to support a free fall of 6 feet. Because of this, ensure anchorage points are located overhead and are NOT located below the worker. In addition, you should be mindful of the amount of swing action capability of a fall arrest system. Too much swing could cause the individual to hit hazardous objects and sustain serious injuries.
Due to the fast pace of business today, we rely on routine to ensure business continuity which can put our safety programs at risk of running on autopilot. Instead, welcome every changing season with a quick review of your safety program. That way, when the brisk chill rolls in you’ll do so knowing you’ve reviewed your fall prevention strategies, thus keeping your workers safe year-round.
Hannah Sesay is the vice president of health and safety for Ferguson and is a member of the American Supply Association Safety Committee which provides the Eye on Safety column each month.