Ensuring a safe working environment requires the full understanding of occupational safety regulations. This must be reflected in the formulation of an organization’s fall protection policy and the enforcement of its systems.
The nature and location of the work dictates the fall protection system that is to be utilized. The standard fall protection systems include: Guardrail systems and toeboards, Handrail and stair rail systems, Hole covers, and Safety net systems.
Guardrail systems and toeboards
The most reliable and widely used fall protection system is the guardrail. This system must be used when:
– a worker could fall more than 3 metres (10 feet) from any location
– there is a fall hazard of more than 1.2 metres, if the work area is used as a path for a wheelbarrow or similar equipment
– there are open edges of slab formwork for floors and roofs
– a worker is at risk of falling into water, hazardous chemicals or while operating machinery
All guardrails must be installed with toeboard to prevent objects from falling to the floor below and risking injury to others.
Handrail and stair rail systems
As per OSHA regulations, a standard railing shall consist of top rail, intermediate rail, and posts, and shall have a vertical height of 42 inches nominal from upper surface of top rail to floor, platform, runway, or ramp level. The top rail shall be smooth-surfaced throughout the length of the railing.
Stairways having four or more risers or rising more than 30 inches (76 cm), whichever is less, shall be equipped with At least one handrail; and one stairrail system along each unprotected side or edge.
A number of fall-related accidents are caused by falling through an opening in the walking-working surface, making hole covers an integral part of a fall protection program. Although guardrails are still the best protection around holes, this is not always possible so the use of hole covers is the next prudent choice. In such cases, the cover must:
– cover the whole completely
– fastened securely
– with appropriate labels that is brightly colored and readable
– made from durable materials, capable of supporting twice the average weight of a live load
Safety net systems
When workers are at risk to falls of 6 feet or more, employers are required by the OSHA to install fall protection systems, one of which is a safety net system. The following provisions must be complied with:
– When nets are used on bridges, the potential fall area from the walking/working surface to the net must be unobstructed
– Safety nets must have sufficient clearance under them
– Safety nets must be capable of absorbing an impact force equal to the standard’s specified drop test
– Maximum mesh size must not exceed 6 inches by 6 inches. All mesh crossings must be secured to prevent enlargement of the mesh opening, which must be no longer than 6 inches, measured center-to-center.
– Each safety net, or section thereof, must have a border rope for webbing with a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
– Connections between safety net panels must be as strong as integral net components, and must not be spaced more than 6 inches apart.
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