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Fall Protection 101

What Is Fall Protection?

Every year, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) gives out thousands of citations — most of which are fall protection violations. Having a fall protection system in place is necessary in many worksites not only to avoid hefty fines from OSHA, but also to keep workers safe and productive.

 Fall protection refers to a backup system that helps protects workers from potential falls while on the job. Fall protection can be divided into four main categories: fall arrest, positioning, suspension and retrieval.

Positioning: Positioning systems hold the worker in place so that they can work hands-free without falling and are not designed to arrest falls.

 Suspension: Commonly used in window painting and cleaning industries, suspension systems are used to lower and suspend the worker so that they are free to use their hands for work. Suspension belts may be used for this purpose; however, they are not intended to stop an arrest.

 Retrieval: In case a fall does occur, a retrieval system is used to retrieve the worker. Retrieval systems should be planned in advance, so it’s in place and ready to employ at any time.

 Fall protection systems come in many different forms. One simple way to add fall protection to your applications is through installation of OSHA compliant stairways and platforms that come with industrial safety handrails.

 Fall Classification

 According to OSHA, falls were the cause of 349 out of 874 total deaths in the construction industry in 2014. In order to keep accurate records and statistics, falls are classified into the following three categories: slips and trips, falls on stairs, and falls to a lower level. These falls can be caused by many hazards, such as unprotected roof edges, improper scaffold construction, unsafe ladders, improperly covered holes and more.

 Who Needs Fall Protection?

 It doesn’t take much height for a fall to seriously injure or kill a worker. For this reason, OSHA is very strict when it comes to who needs fall protection systems in place. Certain industries may require specific fall protection systems; however, OSHA standard 29 CFR requires that general industries have fall protection systems in place for situations including (but not limited to):

  • Elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces
  • When employees are working over dangerous equipment, machinery or bodies of water/fluid
  • Surfaces that lack industrial strength or structural integrity (including surfaces with holes)

 Make Your Workplace Safer

 Keeping employees safe on the job is critical to the success of any business. In order to protect your workers from falls, consider the following tips:

 Install Fall Protection Systems

Implementing fall protection systems into your workplace will not only keep you from potential fines from OSHA, but it will also make your employees safer and more productive. Guardrails, safety nets and personal fall arrest systems can all help keep workers safe.

 Train Employees

Proper training of employees is key to promoting a safe work culture and preventing potential hazards. The more educated an employee is on safety, the less likely they are to suffer an accident while working. As the employer, it is your duty to provide employees with proper safety training.

 Use Proper Equipment

Equipping your employees with the proper tools for the job will play a large part in their safety. Different ladders and scaffolds will be required for different tasks, and it is important that employers do not try to cut corners by using the wrong tools for the job. Routine checkups and maintenance of this equipment is also critical. While replacing a spare part may seem costly in the moment, the possible damage to both machine and employee could be far greater if left unchecked.

Use OSHA Materials

OSHA has a large amount of fall protection materials that employers can use to their benefit. From employee training guides to sample fall protection plans, both employers and employees can find a variety of helpful resources on OSHA’s website. There are many free tools available that are designed to keep people all across the country safe, and everyone should be using these resources to promote safety in the workplace.