The ABC’s of Fall Protection in Construction

laynard2Although OSHA’s new final rule this month updating fall protection standards does not specifically apply to large construction projects, it nonetheless underscores the importance of safety measures when it comes to working at heights. Falls have consistently been among the industry’s leading cause of injury and death and continues to occupy much of the agency’s efforts to promote workplace safety. In fact, all of the new standards are not new to the construction agency, however, knowing the importance of proper equipment and thorough training can never be overstated.

The new rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, it updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards, and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems.

Body belts as a stand-alone measure have not been an acceptable part of a personal fall arrest system in the construction industry for many years, but it is worth noting that although fall protection equipment continues to improve, it becomes ineffective without the proper training.

Fall Protection Options

The rule requires employers to protect workers from fall hazards along unprotected sides or edges that are at least 4 feet above a lower level. It also sets requirements for fall protection in specific situations, such as hoist areas, runways, areas above dangerous equipment, wall openings, repair pits, stairways and scaffolds. In addition it establishes requirements for the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of personal fall protection systems. Under the final rule, employers may choose from the following fall protection options:

• Guardrail System – A barrier erected along an unprotected or exposed side, edge, or other area of a walking-working surface to prevent workers from falling to a lower level.

• Safety Net System – A horizontal or semihorizontal, cantilever-style barrier that uses a netting system to stop falling workers before they make contact with a lower level or obstruction.

• Personal Fall Arrest System – A system that arrests/stops a fall before the worker contacts a lower level. Consists of a body harness, anchorage, and connector, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or a suitable combination. Like OSHA’s construction standards, the final rule prohibits the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system.

• Positioning System – A system of equipment and connectors that, when used with a body harness or body belt, allows a worker to be supported on an elevated vertical surface, such as a wall or window sill, and work with both hands free.

• Travel Restraint System – A combination of an anchorage, anchorage connector, lanyard (or other means of connection), and body support to eliminate the possibility of a worker going over the unprotected edge or side of a walking-working surface.

• Ladder Safety System – A system attached to a fixed ladder designed to eliminate or reduce the possibility of a worker falling off the ladder. A ladder safety system usually consists of a carrier, safety sleeve, lanyard, connectors, and body harness. Cages and wells are not considered ladder safety systems.

Our offices at Diversified Safety Services are ready to answer your questions when it comes to compliance in fall arrest systems and can help you find the right equipment for the job.

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Nina McGinley

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