February 28, 2002
By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP
According to the US Department
of Labor, falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities
in the construction industry. Each year, on average, between
150 and 200 workers are killed and more than 100,000 are injured
as a result of falls at construction sites. OSHA recognizes
that accidents involving falls are generally complex events
frequently involving a variety of factors. Consequently the
standard for fall protection deals with both the human and
equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards.
When work is performed on elevated
surfaces such as roofs, or during construction activities,
protection against falls must be considered. Fall arresting
systems, which include lifelines, body harnesses, and other
associated equipment are often used when fall hazards cannot
be controlled by railings, floors, nets and other means.
These systems are designed to stop a free fall of us to six
feet while limiting the forces imposed on the wearer.
Fall protection is required for
most construction activities by OSHA whenever work is performed
in an area that is six feet higher than its surroundings.
Exceptions to this rule include work done from scaffolds,
ladders and stairways, derricks and cranes and work involving
electrical transmission and distribution. Also excluded is
the performance of inspections, investigations or assessments
of existing conditions prior to the beginning or after the
completion of construction.
Fall protection is required whenever
work is performed in an area six feet above its surroundings
or six feet above a lower level. Fall protection can generally
be provided through the use of guardrail systems, safety net
systems, or personal fall arrest systems. Where it can be
clearly demonstrated that the use of these systems is infeasible
or creates a greater hazard, a fall protection program that
provides for alternative fall protection measures may be implemented.
Fall Protection Systems
A variety of systems may be chosen from when
providing fall protection. These systems include:
- Guardrails: Standard guardrails consist of a top rail
located 42 inches above the floor and a mid rail. Screens
and mesh may be used to replace the mid-rail as long as
they extend from the top rail to the floor.
- Personal Fall Arresting Systems: Components of a personal
fall arresting system include a body harness, lanyard, lifeline,
connector, and an anchorage point capable of supporting
at least 5000 pounds.
- Positioning Device Systems: This type of system consists
of a body harness rigged to allow work on a vertical surface,
such as a wall, with both hands free.
- Safety Monitoring by a Competent Person: This system
allows a trained person to monitor others as they work on
elevated surfaces and warn them of any fall hazards.
- Safety Net Systems: These systems consist of nets installed
as close as possible under the work area.
- Warning Line Systems: These systems are made up of lines
or ropes installed around a work area on a roof. These
act as a barrier to prevent those working on the roof from
approaching the edges.
- Covers: Covers are fastened over holes in working surfaces
to prevent falls.
Workers should also be provided with protection
from falling objects. Work surfaces should be kept clear
of material and debris by removal at regular intervals. Toeboards
should be used to prevent objects from being inadvertently
kicked to a lower level. When feasible canopies should be
provided to help protect from falling objects.
Effective January 1, 1998, body harnesses are
required for use with all fall arresting systems. The body
belt is no longer allowed to be worn. Also, effective on
that date, only locking type snaphooks can be used as part
of a fall arresting system.
Fall Protection Training must include the following:
- How to recognize and minimize fall hazards
- The nature of the fall hazards in the work area
- Procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and
inspecting the specific fall protection system used
- Use, operation and limitations of fall protection systems
- The user's role in fall protection systems
- Training should also include a hands-on session where
your employees can put on their body harnesses and become
familiar with the connections, lanyards, etc. Most suppliers
of fall protection equipment include hands-on training as
part of their service when you purchase the equipment.
- Fall protection equipment is provided to save your employees
lives - make sure they know how to use it properly!
- Also, included in the training program should be information
regarding responsible individuals. A well run Fall Protection
Program includes identifying individuals to be responsible
for the following roles:
- Identify areas where fall protection is needed.
- Obtain or develop fall protection systems
- Ensure workers are trained and understand how to use and inspect the fall protection devices.
- Ensure workers know where the fall protection devices
- Ensure workers use the fall protection devices
Working safely above the ground is important.
Please review the elevated work being performed in your workplace
and implement a Fall Protection Program if needed. Your employees
and their families will thank you.
For OSHA regulations regarding Fall Protection,
please search on the OSHA home page at http://www.osha.gov/.
Copyright © 2002 by WorkCare™ All
See you next month,