Fall Protection Systems: Keeping Workers Safe from Falls

Fall Protection SystemsIn an earlier post, we discussed fall prevention — one of the most important workplace safety issues and one of the 10 most violated safety standards, according to OSHA. You may recall that more construction workers die each year from falls off ladders, scaffolds, and roofs than anything else. In this post, we’ll look more in-depth at one of the best ways to prevent fall injuries or deaths: by preparing for the fall in the first place.

Though many construction workers don’t know it, working from a height of six feet or more requires some kind of fall protection, such as a guard rail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system. Even contractors and workers who are aware of the need for fall protection systems may not know how to use them safely because they weren’t properly trained.

It may sound ironic — isn’t preparing for a fall a bit like preparing to fail? — but a case study from the National Safety Council pinpoints why fall protection equipment is crucial in preventing injuries. Here’s a snapshot of the job site described in the case study, which reveals at least a half-dozen OSHA violations.

1. One worker is standing on scaffolding that is almost 20 feet tall. Not only does it exceed the acceptable 4:1 height to base ratio, but the scaffolding is not restrained and runs the risk of tipping over. In addition, there are no mid-rails or ladder access for this worker. Clearly, this scaffold was not erected or inspected by a competent person, as required by OSHA.

2. Another worker is standing on the third floor of a building with no guard rails or other fall protection systems in place. His toes are over the edge, and he is leaning outside the building.

3. The case study also describes a forklift picking up two people on a pallet, one of whom is the site superintendent’s 16-year-old son. The forklift is sitting on a berm embankment to gain access to the higher parts of the structure. What’s wrong with this picture?

For one, workers should never lift anyone up on the forks of a lift truck — let alone an underage worker — unless they are in a properly designed personnel basket on a lift that is rated for that purpose. In addition, a forklift should never be used on top of an unstable base to gain additional height.

All of the workers in this snapshot were at risk of serious or fatal falls because they did not have the right fall protection equipment. So, whether you use guard rails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems, make sure you have the fall protection equipment appropriate for the job. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your workers safe — and  to have a competent person regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it’s in good condition and safe to use.

Have you signed up for OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down? It’s not too late. Sign up here, and contact Diversified Safety Services today for help with any of your occupational safety training needs.

The following two tabs change content below.