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Did you know that slips, trips, and falls accounted for more than a quarter of nonfatal work injuries in 2019 that required days away from work? What’s more, falls are one of the top three most common work-related injuries treated in emergency rooms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These types of injuries can be prevented. Doing so starts with knowing what hazards exist and which type of fall protection equipment is best suited for the jobs your team will be doing.
Not sure where to start? Read on to learn how to identify fall risks in your workspace and for more information about the role of fall protection equipment in your team’s fall prevention program.
Understanding Fall Protection Best Practices
You’ve heard the cliché “a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure.” Whether you work in a manufacturing plant or on construction sites, basing your fall protection plan around industry best practices is mutually beneficial for workers and employers.
Conducting a Job Hazard Analysis
Before you buy fall protection gear, your first step should be conducting a job hazard analysis (JHA), sometimes called a job safety analysis. A JHA allows you to identify potential workplace hazards before they result in injury. This OSHA-approved practice involves:
- Evaluating each position in your facility based on the environment in which it takes place.
- Identifying hazards throughout an employee’s daily tasks.
- Taking steps to remove or otherwise neutralize hazards, such as open holes, high platforms, or other fall risks.
Some fall risks can’t be removed or neutralized, however. In those cases, employers need to mitigate the fall risks on their premises. OSHA mandates fall protection at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in construction zones, and eight feet in long shoring operations.
Using the Hierarchy of Controls
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-established Hierarchy of Controls provides another framework for understanding the hazard mitigation process. This inverted pyramid lays out how to reduce hazards in the workplace, from the most effective to the least effective mitigation factors. Teams should start at the top of the list and work their way down:
- Elimination of hazards.
- Substitution or replacement of the hazard.
- Engineering controls designed to isolate workers from the hazards.
- Administrative controls that can shift the way employees work to minimize exposure to hazards.
- Personal protective equipment that can increase the safety of all workers. (You should first explore all of the above measures when it comes to fall protection.)
Conducting Due diligence
As with any risk-mitigation measures, you’ll want to do the following when establishing best fall protection practices:
- Regularly inspect equipment, and establish an inspection protocol that involves documentation.
- Educate workers on how to correctly use any machinery and how to use fall protection gear provided.
- Provide regular equipment and machinery training to emphasize the importance of worksite safety measures.
- Have proper fall protection gear sizes available.
- Designate a point of contact who annually inspects and recommends replacement of gear showing wear and tear.
Once you understand the hazards of each job in your organization, you can formulate a company-wide fall protection plan.
Selecting the Right Fall Protection Gear
There’s a wide range of fall protection gear from which to choose, so understanding your company’s needs and the options available is key to making the right choice for your team and work environment. Travel restraint and fall arrest systems are both commonly used fall protection equipment composed of a series of cables, anchors, and harnesses.
Travel restraint systems
Travel restraint systems allow workers a wide range of movement while protecting them from going over the edge of a platform. A travel restraint system involves a combination of components that works together to reduce the risk of a fall using retractable lanyards and a lifeline as well as to brake with a sudden, rapid movement, should a fall occur. This includes the following:
- Harnesses come in a variety of styles and generally buckle around the chest with shoulder and leg straps.
- Retractable lanyards mount to a belt or fall protection harness webbing and allow you to set a working length before locking the lanyard in a fixed position.
- Galvanized steel lifelines help mitigate falls by stretching either horizontally or vertically, anchored at each end to a structure or platform. The lanyard usually affixes to the landline via a carabiner.
- Rope grabs attach the lanyard to the lifeline and act as a deceleration device.
- Anchors provide a secure attachment point for any deceleration devices, lifelines, and lanyards.
- Hoist systems, such as confined-space hoist systems or tripod hoist systems, can return workers to safety in high-risk areas.
Fall arrest systems
Whereas the goal of a travel restraint system is to confine a worker to a fixed space, a fall arrest system offers workers less range of motion but is designed to break a fall quickly. This system employs:
- Lanyards, both self-retracting and shock-absorbing
All-in-one fall protection kits bring together harnesses, lanyards, ropes, and anchors to help ensure your team has all the components required for safe work amid fall risks. These kits are generally contained in a bag or bucket for easy transport and storage.
Get all your gear at Global Industrial®
A fall protection program following OSHA and NIOSH best practices can create conditions that lead to fewer injuries on the job. Let Global Industrial® help you round out your fall protection program with gear to keep workers safe and effective while working near fall risks. Contact our product experts today to learn more.
The information contained in this article is for informational, educational, and promotional purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, rules, codes and regulations. If there is any question or doubt in regard to any element contained in this article, please consult a licensed professional. Under no circumstances will Global Industrial® be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on this article.
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