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Personal Protection - Storage, Maintenance and Care (Sep/Oct-12)
Machine Safeguarding (Jul/Aug-12)
Is Your Lockout & Tagout Program Working? (May/Jun-12)
Getting Familiar with OSHA (Mar/Apr-12)
Is Your Piping Systems Properly Marked? (Jan/Feb-12)
Accident Prevention, Does Your Company Have An Effective Program? (Nov/Dec-11)
Defining FR – Flame Resistant Fabrics (Jul/Aug-11)
OSHA's Flammable & Combustible Liquids (May/Jun-11)
Safety & Health Program Check-up (Jan/Feb-11)
OSHA Is My Friend (Nov/Dec-10)
OSHA Standard for Control of Hazardous Energy Sources? (Sep/Oct-10)
Lockout/Tagout Program (Jul/Aug-10)
Safe Handling of Compressed Gas Cylinders (May/Jun-10)
What You Should Know about OSHA and Plastic Working Machinery (Mar/Apr-10)
Fasten Those Forklift Seat Belts (Jan/Feb-10)
My Back Hurts (Nov/Dec-09)
Fall Protection Program (Sep/Oct-09)
Accident Prevention & Investigation (Jul/Aug-09)
OSHA & Machine Safeguarding (May/Jun-09)
Carbon Monoxide Hazards (Mar/Apr-09)
OSHA Electrical Safety and Training (Jan/Feb-09)
Free Forklift ANSI Standards (Nov/Dec-08)
Worksite Fire Emergencies (Sep/Oct-08)
Machine Safety (Jul/Aug-08)
Ladder Safety (May/Jun-08)
Is Your Company on OSHA's Hit List?
OSHA Notifies Workplaces with High Injury and Illness Rates (Mar/Apr-08)
Safety Means . . . Never Having to Say You're Sorry (Jan/Feb-08)
Flammables and Combustible Liquids (Nov/Dec-07)
Designing-In Safety NOT Retrofitting Safety (Sep/Oct-07)
Back Safety and Lifting (Jul/Aug-07)
Machine Guarding (May/Jun-07)
Your Hearing Keep it for a Lifetime (Mar/Apr-07)
Light Up the Holidays the Safe Way (Nov/Dec-06)
Would You Risk Your Employee's Life? (Sep/Oct-06)
How to Control Workers' Compensation Costs (Jul/Aug-06)
Compliance with 70E Electrical Standards (May/Jun-06)
OSHA Is on the Move (Mar/Apr-06)
Workplace Violence (Jan/Feb-06)
The Aging Workforce (Nov/Dec-05)
The Safety Paradox (Sep/Oct-05)
Machine Guarding (Jul/Aug-05)
Effective Risk Management (May/Jun-05)
Safety Is Everyone's Business (Mar/Apr-05)
New Year's Resolution Safety (Jan/Feb-05)
Safe Driving (Nov/Dec-04)
Terror In The Skies Revisited (Sep/Oct-04)
How They Got Hurt (Jul/Aug-04)
In-Plant Air Monitoring & Analysis (May/Jun-04)
Safety on the Job and Complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act (Mar/Apr-04)
Link to Article Archive (Jan/Feb-04)
A Supervisor's Duty (Nov/Dec-03)
Machine Safety – Are Your Machines Safe to Operate? (Sep/Oct-03)
Summer is Here (Jul/Aug-03)
Working Safely On Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) (May/Jun-03)
Does Your Safety and Health Workplace Program Contain All of These Elements? (Mar/Apr-03)
Methylene Chloride (Jan/Feb-03)
Safety Signs & Labels - Does Your Facility Comply? (Nov/Dec-02)
Indoor Air Quality (Sep/Oct-02)
When OSHA Arrives (Jul/Aug-02)
Facts About the Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) (May/Jun-02)
Workplace Fire Safety (Mar/Apr-02)
OSHA 300 Form (Jan/Feb-02)
Preparing for Disaster (Nov/Dec-01)
How Much is a Life Worth? (Sep/Oct-01)
Material Handling Programs (Jul/Aug-01)
It's Up To You To Protect Your Skin (May/Jun-01)
When You’ve Been Handed the Responsibility for Safety (Mar/Apr-01)
A Fresh Look at Machine Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-01)
Safe Work Habits (Nov/Dec-00)
The Importance of Material Safety Data Sheets (Sep/Oct-00)
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (Jul/Aug-00)
Lockout/Tagout Program (May/Jun-00)
OSHA Violations, Citations and Penalties for 1998 (Mar/Apr-00)
Erogonomics and Machinery Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-00)
General Machine Principles (Nov/Dec-99)
SAFETY SOLUTIONS
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SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Fall Protection Program

This month I would like to talk about fall prevention and protection. OSHA classifies facility workers as both general industry and construction workers and as such all employees must be trained in both set of OSHA regulations. Protecting employees from falls is a major concern for responsible employers in all types of work settings. From general industry to construction, falls account for a large number of injuries and deaths. In private industry for example, out of 5,270 fatalities, 14.6 percent were fall-related, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The safety profession recognizes the obvious hazards associated with falls as does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Several portions of the 1910 general industry standards, along with Subpart M of the construction safety standards, address the requirements of protecting employees from the hazards associated with falls.

For the safety professional, problems encountered on worksites usually revolve around the fact that employees aren't trained and the proper fall protection systems are not available. Another area of concern is providing fall protection when the methods mentioned in the standard (personal fall arrest, guardrails, safety nets) are not feasible. It is this area of fall protection where I teach fall protection to students at two of the leading OSHA Training Institute Educational Centers.

To put it simply, employers are required to protect employees from falling from heights in excess of 4 feet within the industry standards and 6 feet in the construction standards. Exceptions to the 4- foot and 6-foot heights are falls from scaffolds, steel that is being erected, and falls where impalement hazards or machinery is being run directly underneath employees. Impalement hazards and machinery require employers to guard the entire area or prevent employees from coming into contact with those hazards. Employers have options within the standards to protect their employees. Options mentioned include guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems (safety harnesses) and safety net systems. These are addressed in the particular standard and are fairly straightforward.

When a guardrail or other protective systems cannot be used, the employee is required to wear fall protection. This equipment must meet ANSI Z359 and ANZI A-10 safety standards. As a matter of record, your fall protection program must also meet ANSI Z359.2 standards. This standard describes the minimum safety requirements for a fall protection program.

Elevated work situations are a necessary part of many construction and maintenance projects. Such environments carry a significant potential for serious injury or death from falling, which is why proper fall protection is a critical component of safety programs for those projects.

Unfortunately, proper fall protection and the correct use of personal protective equipment are not always well-understood, creating both a false sense of security and the very real prospect of danger. A worker may believe they are safe because they are wearing a high-quality lanyard and has connected it to part of the structure. However, that's not always the case.

Identifying Safe Anchorage Points

Personal fall-protection equipment cannot help a worker if it is used improperly, and one of the most common misuses is failing to tie off to safe anchorage points. Just because something is attached to the structure or is made of steel does not ensure that it provides a safe anchorage. OSHA mandates that anchorage points be able to withstand 5,000 pounds of force. A simple rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't be comfortable hooking your car or truck to an anchorage point, you probably shouldn't hook yourself to it. When choosing an anchorage point, it's also important to consider whether more than one worker will be tied to it at the same time because that will affect the maximum force.

Many times when I teach fall prevention, my students ask “what does a 5,000 pound anchorage look like?” Picture a GMC Suburban hanging in the air. If the anchorage can hold the Suburban, it can hold you. If not, do not use it to tie off to. The best way to identify safe anchorage points is to do it before you need them. Before the project begins, identify and mark spots that will provide safe anchorage when needed. Consider the highest possible tie-off locations and where staff will be working in relation to the anchorage points. That way, workers won't have to guess where they should tie off, and they're less likely to tie off to a site that can't safely support them.

Location is Just as Important

When manufacturers test products such as retractable or shock-absorbing lanyards, they usually do so in a vertical situation. The fall distance is generally determined by measuring from the anchorage point, along the length to which the lanyard will stretch out, plus the length of the body. When computing the fall distance, it's a good idea to add a safety factor of an additional three feet to allow for problems with the equipment, miscalculating the distance or an unusually tall worker. The harness should be tight, and freefall distance should be minimized, because this will reduce recoil and stretch, and the forces they place on the body.

Horizontal aspects also need to be considered, because a fall may produce a pendulum effect, in which a suspended worker swings back and forth - sometimes into other workers, the structure, moving equipment or hot work. That's why most manufacturers recommend no more than a 30 percent offset from the anchorage point to the body position.

Another situation that sometimes occurs is when a worker will be performing tasks at multiple locations on a roof or open floor area and chooses a 50-foot retractable lanyard for convenience, believing that once it's secured, he can move anywhere in that range. However, if he stretches the lanyard out horizontally and falls over the edge, he'll fall the full distance before the safety clutches can kick in. The ground or another surface may stop him before his protective equipment has the chance.

Develop a Rescue Plan

Suppose a worker slips off the edge and his fall protection equipment works flawlessly. He's safe, right? Not necessarily. If he's suspended in the air, you'll generally have less than five minutes to bring him down before he can begin to lose circulation in his legs and even develop blood clots. If the pressure is relieved too quickly, the sudden rush of blood through the circulatory system can lead to other problems. Given that, you probably can't afford to wait the five or ten minutes it will take the local authorities to respond to your site and assess the situation.

That's why it's so important to develop your own rescue plan for all of the elevated aspects of your project before work begins. The plan should address how you'll recover workers who are conscious and what type of equipment on the site - such as vertical lifts, manlifts, or ladders - are available. It should also include training for employees in the area.

If workers don't know the proper rescue procedures, they may complicate the situation. For example, a worker who reaches down to grab the lanyard and pull his co-worker to safety can easily injure himself, creating a need for two elevated rescues. If the suspended worker is unconscious or has significant injuries, pulling him up may worsen his condition and make it more difficult for the rescue team to provide assistance.

Knowledge is the best protection, workers who assume that fall protection is as simple as tying off to what looks like a safe anchorage can become complacent about safety, as can supervisors who think things are great as long as everyone has the right equipment. In both cases, they're wrong. Companies that want to protect workers from falls need to place a high priority on training everyone involved. In addition to proper identification of anchorage points and use of equipment, that training should ensure that everyone knows what to do when a mishap occurs. That knowledge makes the difference between having only a perception of safety and achieving effective protection.

For more information on fall protection, visit my website at www.podojilconsulting.com or if you would like to have weekly newsletters to help keep you informed, email me and I will add you to our mailing list.

For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.

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