Fall injuries remain a top occurrence in workplaces. Statistics from 2006-2008 show that falls rank first as cause for claims, making it the most costly accident in the construction sector. Considering all these numbers, it is sound judgment for business owners to have a fall protection program in place especially for job sites which are at risk for fall-related injuries.
For a fall protection program to be effective, it must contain the following elements: Hazard Analysis, Equipment, Policy, Training, Inspection and Rescue.
The value of conducting a hazard analysis in the workplace is that this step helps determine the hazards in the workplace and therefore the precautions to take in eliminating such. It is also necessary that a qualified and certified person conduct the analysis and that he/ she involves the employees in the process, after all safety is for everyone.
Below are several points to consider in conducting the hazard analysis:
1. Qualify Equipment
– Are the fall hazards controlled with adequate equipment?
– What equipment are currently available at the facility?
– Do these meet Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) standards?
2. Quantify Exposure
– What are the tasks that are high risk?
– Is the hazard unique?
3. Survey the Workforce
– Who are exposed to fall hazards?
Probably the second most important component in fall protection practices is the equipment— with human factor being the first. Fall protection equipment come in two types:
Self Retracting Lifelines
As the policy covers all that is involved in the workplace and not just the ones exposed to fall hazards, it must be composed in a way that is simple and understandable, reasonable and most of all, possible.
The fall protection program must contain the following basic rules:
1. Guidelines when working at heights greater than five feet and not protected by a standard guardrail
2. There is no minimum job duration allowed which excludes the fall protection
3. There is no minimum acceptable distance from an unguarded edge*.
* Unguarded Edge: Edge with a fall hazard greater than 5 feet, not guarded by a standard guardrail or a parapet at least 34 inches high. Areas excluded from Rule #3: Piers, Quay walls, Flooded Dry Docks – LIFE RINGS ARE STAGED and PFD requirements apply.
Based on OSHA standards, the following are the minimum number of hours required for fall protection training:
2-8 hrs: Familiarization
8 hrs: Fall Protection for Managers/Engineers
8-16 hrs: Full User Certification.
5 Days: Competent Person Certification
8 – 10 Days: Qualified Person Certification
10 – 12 Days: Trainer Certification
Business owners should require the following personnel to undergo the said training:
1. Individual user
3. Technical/ Spec writers
4. At least one (1) Engineer as a qualified person
5. Additional personnel, if needed
Trainees are encouraged to attend both in-house training and commercial courses.
Two types of inspections must be conducted in the workplace to guarantee safety practices are compliant to the fall protection program:
This is done to ensure that each user is trained to perform:
Detailed inspection documentation
Also known as ‘Annual Inspection’, this is performed by the certified Competent Person, or by his/ her instruction. The inspection must be detailed, documented, traceable per component. Specialized equipment should be returned to the manufacturer for a more thorough inspection.
Despite a comprehensive fall protection program, this is no guarantee that a workplace is 100% accident-proof and it is in this situations that a rescue plan must be utilized. It is absolutely crucial that there is a means to rescue an individual after a fall, especially when the numbers say that people who use fall protection equipment fall more often than people who don’t. When forming a rescue team in your organization, it is essential that they are highly specialized, beyond competent and very qualified. Do not assume that your local Fire Department is trained for this function so you must verify first.
A fall protection program in one’s workplace demonstrates the business owner’s seriousness for the welfare of his workers. At the end of the day, what matters most is that the workers were protected and the business was productive.