Maximize Safety: Enhance Fall Protection Systems for a Safer Workplace

Fall protection violations were the No. 1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation in 2016. This isn’t much of a surprise, as fall protection problems have been persistent for years. And it’s an issue that facility managers must address within their own workspaces.

After fall protection, scaffold violations came in at No. 3, and ladder violations at No. 7.

OSHA took steps to reduce the number of fall injuries and deaths by updating its fall protection rules, which went into effect January 2017. These changes apply to 6.9 million establishments throughout the U.S. and affect 112 million workers, according to EHS Today.

Though fall accidents are most prevalent in the construction industry, they are evident in many other work environments as well. As such, these changes apply to general industry as well as construction job sites.

Keeping your facility up to code can be challenging, especially when the rules change. Working with experts like those at Miner can help make compliance easy, fast and effective.

Beyond partnering with industry experts who know how to properly install, inspect and repair equipment throughout your location, there are some aspects of the new legislation you should be aware of.

Prepare for potential falls

Accidents happen. And, when workers are doing their jobs at high altitudes, one mistake can easily lead to a fall. The best way to protect workers is to expect a fall to happen, and to already have proactive measures in place to prevent injury as a result.

OSHA states that workers near an unprotected side or edge must have some sort of fall protection in place. This can be a guardrail, safety net or a personal fall arrest system.

The main change to this rule is the requirement of fall protection systems for workers within 6 feet. Previously, OSHA’s stance was that any distance from an unprotected edge was a hazardous distance. Now, the rule classifies what’s needed by distance from the edge:

  • 6 feet or less:  Personal fall protection systems are required.
  • 6-15 feet: There must be a designated area for temporary work and a clearly marked line at 6 feet from the edge.
  • 15 feet or more: As long as the work is temporary or infrequent, no fall protection system is required.

The rules lack a definition of “temporary or infrequent,” Bloomberg BNA pointed out. Accordingly, this distinction may fall to individual inspectors. Facility managers may want to take extra precautions in this area by requiring fall protection systems at any height. This way, a strict inspector won’t write up a violation for something that a more lax one might pass over. Additionally, this will provide employees with even greater protection.

Fall protection systems keep workers safe on the job.Workers who perform jobs near an unprotected edge must have a fall protection system in place.

Adele L. Abrams, an occupational safety and health attorney from Maryland, told BNA that employers may also want to track the number of hours employees are performing work in these areas. This will give additional legal protection for employers who are issued a violation.

Understand where falls can happen

When most people think of a work-related fall, they assume it happens from up above. Most often, this is the case, with workers falling from various levels of buildings, aerial lifts, scaffolding or ladders. However, a fall can also happen at ground level.

OSHA points out that holes in the floor create fall hazards as dangerous as unprotected edges. These should never go unmarked or uncovered. Signs, guardrails and hole covers are all adequate protections against workers falling through these openings.

Provide adequate training

Your workers should always understand the risks that are prevalent at work. Now, through OSHA’s revised fall protection rules, employee training on slip, trip and fall hazards is a requirement. OSHA firmly believes that adequate training on the risks and the personal protection gear employees use is the best defense against accidents, Occupational Health & Safety reported.

There are no specific guidelines as to the mode of instruction. This means the employer should use his or her best judgment to determine the most appropriate way to deliver the information, circumventing barriers such as language, inability to read and any other possible obstacle that could prevent someone from understanding the training.

At the end of the training, workers should understand how to:

  • Correctly use the personal protection equipment they work with.
  • Recognize fall hazards.
  • Reduce fall hazards.
  • Install and disassemble fall prevention systems.
  • Inspect and maintain fall prevention systems.

Finally, the employer must ensure all workers fully understand what was covered in the training. If there is any reason to believe someone is unclear on any of the material, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide clarification.

Though it’s critical that each employee knows how to install and maintain fall prevention systems, it may also be advisable to seek the assistance of an expert. Miner’s Install360 program ensures your equipment and systems are installed correctly. We work with commercial construction companies in addition to manufacturing facilities, warehouses, third-party logistics facilities and more. To learn how Miner can improve the safety at your location, reach out to our experts today.