A Guide to Height-Safety & Fall Protection
Height-related dangers are the top hazard on construction sites.
We’ve talked about ladder safety in recent weeks, however, that is only one aspect of height safety.
Too often height safety is overlooked in favor of productivity.
As OSHA found in 2016, general requirements in regards to fall protection are the most violated standards in the book.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that of the 828 construction fatalities in 2013, 291 of them were as a result of a fall to a lower level.
Job-Site Considerations for Fall Protection
OSHA offers a comprehensive guide to fall protection requirements.
There are specific requirements for different construction activities, but OSHA also has general requirements.
These blanket requirements include:
- Using a railing and toeboard; or a floor hole cover, to guard any floor hole that is a fall risk.
- Provide a guard rail and toe board around every elevated open-sided platform or floor that is six feet above the next floor.
- Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
- No matter the height, if the fall hazard is near dangerous machines or equipment – such as conveyor belts, guardrails and roe boards must be present.
- Fall protection equipment, such as hand rails, safety nets, and stair railings, should be used in specific instances.
- Body belts are not considered a fall-arresting device but are allowed as part of a positioning system to prevent falls.
The individual construction site will dictate what you can or should use, but there is never an excuse to cut corners on fall protection.
A worker who sees that his personal safety is a priority to upper management will be a happier and more satisfied worker.
Having Proper Fall Protection Equipment
The best option for fall protection is the Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).
Safety nets and other passive systems are not always feasible.
The active responsibility of wearing a PFAS can also remind the worker of the safety precautions they should be taking.
The best wearable arrest systems are most costly, but with good reason.
Not only does it needs to be safe and capable, but it also should have a level of comfort.
A PFAS that doesn’t hurt or cause skin irritations helps ensure the worker will actually wear it.
A PFAS and associated components need to meet the following requirements:
- When used with a body harness, the PFAS must limit the arresting force on a worker to 1,800 pounds.
- Must bring to a complete stop, limiting the maximum deceleration distance a worker travels to 3.5 feet.
- Must be rigged so that the worker can neither free fall more than 6 feet or contact any lower level.
- Needs to be strong enough to withstand twice the potential impact energy of a worker falling 6 feet, or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less.
- Must be inspected prior to every use for wear, damage, and deterioration. Any defective component must be removed and replaced before the system is returned to service.
- All snap hooks must be the locking type and designed to prevent disengagement from any component part of the PFAS.
- Lifelines and lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
Arresta: The Gold Standard in Fall Protection
The wearable full-body harnesses are comfortable and strong so that workers can wear without their movement being constricted.
Made of high tenacity polyester, they are incredibly durable.
Lanyards are available with small or large hooks, as well as in the dual-hook Y-lanyard configuration.
The breaking strength of the webbing is 6,000 pounds, capable of absorbing the energy of the average construction worker.
Rescue and Recovery
Even with the best fall protection, you still need to coordinate the rescue and recovery of fallen workers.
After a fall is arrested, the recovery effort needs to get moving immediately.
Unfortunately, the very same equipment that saves workers from fatal falls can also cause injury – if the workers are left hanging too long.
After ten minutes of falling, suspension trauma becomes a danger.
As a company, planning for a fall recovery is essential.
Create a list of equipment on hand that can be used to safely bring the employee down. Also, make sure to clearly display where it is located on site.
For even more in-depth planning and guidance, use the resources available in the fall protection bundle.
Know what workers are trained and capable of rescue efforts (and make sure to train those that are not).
Failure to plan can create further safety hazards to employees, which may rush into an unplanned rescue, unprepared and potentially be causing more damage.
At PowerPak we offer numerous safety systems and features that will help you remain OSHA compliant, while also preventing tragedy.
If you need help finding the best fall protection system for your project or site, simply drop us a line!
Our competent fall protection certified experts would be happy to help!