If you’ve been on the job for an amount of time, you probably know that falls are one of the most common causes of serious work-related injury and death. Worker safety is the most important part of any job, and implementing an effective fall prevention strategy, should be a high priority. That’s why we put together this handy guide outlining 5 things about fall prevention you need to think about.
Do I Need Protection? The Four Foot Rule
The industry-accepted guideline is that employees must be protected from falls if they are working at a height of 4 feet or more above the surface below them. This threshold is slightly higher in some instances, such as projects related to construction and other businesses. These rules have been in place for several decades, but are always being revisited to make sure they are always keeping workers safe. They are generally focused on passive protection measures like installing guardrails and toe boards on elevated and open-sided platforms, walkways, and other similar work areas. These passive options are not always possible, however, and workers will need a personal fall arrest system to ensure safety.
Should I Eliminate the Problem or Protect Against?
On any worksite, it’s essential to look for any potential fall hazards. Once such a hazard has been identified, you have two options. You can either eliminate the risk or protect against it. Eliminating a hazard by changing the working, environment, processes, and procedures is the ideal solution, but this isn’t always possible. Fall prevention is the next best option. Fall prevention can be achieved with guardrails, scaffolds, handrails, or barriers. If these are practical options, all workers should use harnesses, lanyards, or retractable lifelines to keep themselves safe. Even if you can’t eliminate the problem, you should always try to remove as much of the danger as possible.
Creating a Fall Arrest System
Once you know that you need a fall arrest system, here are the basic components of any system. Every fall arrest system should be made up of an anchorage, body support, and connecting device. You can remember these components with the acronym ABC.
- Anchorage: This refers to a secure point to attach a lifeline, lanyard, deceleration device, or any other system intended to stop falls. An anchorage connector is what connects the safety device to the anchorage.
- Body Support: To effectively keep you safe, a fall arrest system must have a high-quality body harness. Not only does a body harness keep you from falling from a dangerous height, but it all distributes your weight so that the force of a stopped fall doesn’t cause a different kind of injury. A full-body harness will disrupt the fall arrest force across your shoulders, thighs, and pelvis rather than any single point.
- Connecting Device: As the name suggests, this is used to connect the body support to the anchorage. The situation will determine the ideal kind of connection, such as a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lanyard (SRL). SRLs use a deceleration device to stop a fall at 3.5 feet, meeting both OSHA and ANSI standards.
What Equipment Should I Use?
There are so many different kinds of personal fall arrest systems that are made up of the three elements already discussed. When choosing the right type of equipment, the specific situation will determine the safest and most effective option. Factions such as what the worker will be doing, the work environment, and whether or not workers will be sharing equipment or using their own.
Anchorage devices such as structural steel members, precast concrete beams, and wooden trusses are all useful in different situations, and the team at Williams Equipment and Supply can help you determine which will provide the most safety in your situation. Likewise, we can help you determine which kind and size of the connecting device is appropriate for your work environment. Putting in the extra effort to keep you and your team safe is well worth it.
Choosing the correct harness can be the most complicated part of the process because there are so many different kinds that are designed for different applications. For example, there are separate harnesses designed fo meet safety requirements for tasks such as tower climbing, utilities, oil and gas, mobile skywalk, ironworking, and electrical work. Some are heat resistant, while others are lightweight. It’s essential to check which applications a harness is rated for before using it.
But none of these regulations can effectively keep you safe in the harness doesn’t fit correctly! Straps that are too tight could cut off circulation to the legs. Or, if a harness is too loose, you could fall out and defeat the purpose of the fall arrest system.
How Should I Care For Or Replace Equipment?
There isn’t an always expiration date set for most fall protection products. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll last forever. Most manufacturers will provide a recommended inspection requirement to make it easier for you to use your safety equipment with confidence. You’re responsible for utilizing equipment rated for your desired applications and keeping up with regular maintenance and inspection suggestions to ensure safety and extend the life of your safety systems. But that doesn’t mean our experienced team can’t help!
Another important thing to remember is that any equipment that has experienced a fall must be repaired or replaced. All harnesses and connecting devices must be removed from the work environment and replaced with new equipment immediately. This is true even if the equipment appears to be undamaged and flawless.
Trust the Experts to Keep You Safe
Choosing the best fall protection systems can be an intimidating task, especially because it’s so important. Falls continue to be one of the most common OSHA violations, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure that you and your workers are safe in any work environment and any kind of job.
At Williams Equipment and Supply, we strive to partner with our customers to create safer work environments. We’re passionate about providing contractors with the most effective products for the job they need to get done and do our best to provide all the information you need to make informed decisions and keep your team safe.