The Height of Safety: Industrial Fall Protection

| Jim Lanz

National Safety Month

Horizon Solutions has been outfitting people when they’re exposed to fall hazards at work for over twenty years. In honor of National Safety Month (observed annually in June), it seemed like the perfect time to discuss industrial fall protection. In fiscal 2015 OSHA named Fall Protection as the number one most frequently cited standard.

The Height of Safety: Industrial Fall Protection

Protection Includes Prevention

Fall protection equipment is used in the proactive effort to prevent and avoid injury when falling from an elevated position (above ground or the base surface). Fall protection systems and equipment are required and regulated by the federal government–specifically, the United States Department of Labor, with workplace safety being overseen and reviewed by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA defines industrial fall protection requirements as “any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.” Keep in mind that the employer is responsible for the safety of sub-contractors on his/her property.

Fall Safety Guide

Industrial Fall Protection Systems include:

Passive Fall Restraint - Passive systems do not require special equipment or active participation from the worker.

  • In this case, a passive system, such as guardrails, safety flag lines or catch platforms could be installed around the perimeter of the work area

Safety Net Systems - an alternative solution to protect workers at height.

Active Fall Protection Systems - consists of the A, B, C and R of a fall protection program.

  • Anchors can be permanent or temporary in many forms including, horizontal lifelines, and conventional beam and trolley systems that can be attached to the existing structure
  • Bodywear is the harness that is designed and suited to the application
  • Connecting devices, such as shock-absorbing lanyards or Self Retracting Lifelines
  • The R is the most commonly overlooked piece of this system — you must have a rescue plan and system in place

Other options include:

  • Sky lifts
  • Bucket lifts
  • Scissor lifts
  • JLG extension lifts

As of January 1, 2015, OSHA Standard, 29 CFR Subpart 1904.39, Reporting Fatality, Injury and Illness Information to the Government requires covered employers to report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of learning of the event, and report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye to OSHA within 24 hours of learning of the event.

Protection Matters

A few fall fatalities and incidents cited by OSHA include…
  • 4/23/16 Lubbock, TX - Worker replacing pipe and sprinkler head killed in fall
  • 4/21/16 New York, NY - Worker struck and killed by falling scaffold plank
  • 4/21/16 Houston, TX - Worker on apartment roof died after being struck by lightning and falling off a building
  • 4/20/16 Jersey City, NJ - Worker killed in fall down an elevator shaft
  • 4/18/16 Middle Village, NY - Worker killed in fall from a roof
  • 4/13/16 Lehigh Acres, FL - Worker died after falling into a cement mixer
  • 4/12/16 Danville, VA - Worker died after falling into a vat of boiling water and oil
  • And the list goes on and on…

Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health — "Making a living shouldn't have to cost you your life. Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable. Safe jobs happen because employers make the choice to fulfill their responsibilities and protect their workers."

And don't forget, we're a resource. Contact a Safety Specialist with any of your safety questions.