Fall protection is the use of controls designed to protect employees by reducing the risk of injury or fatality from falls from height or on the same level.
Why is fall protection important?
Falls are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. Also, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
Read Also: Work at height hazards and control measures
Categories of fall protection
There are four generally accepted categories of fall protection:
- Fall elimination: Here, fall hazard is completely eliminated. For example, working at height completely avoided.
- Fall prevention: Here fall guards are used to prevent falls for persons exposed to fall hazards. They can use falls guards like guard rails or other barricades to prevent a person from falling. These barricades are placed near an edge where a fall-hazard can occur, or to surround a weak surface (such as a skylight on a roof) which may break when stepped on.
- Fall arrest: Fall arrest is the cat of stopping someone who is already falling; the fall is arrested. Fall arrest system that are mostly used are the safety harness and the safety net.
- Administrative controls: Administrative control is the management plan to manage falls; it uses work practices or procedures to signal or warn a worker to avoid approaching a fall hazard. It is mostly used with any of the above fall protection systems as it doesn’t prevent falls.
See OSHA PDF document on fall protection here
Fall protection plan
This plan is a must have for any organization where there is risk of falls. This plan will outline the policy and procedures involved in assembling, maintaining, inspecting, using, and dismantling equipment such as ladders, scaffolds, or platforms used for working at heights as well as any fall protection equipment. Fall protection plans must be specific to each site where workers are faced with the risk of fall. There is “no one size fits all” program. Requirements and equipment used will change from workplace to workplace, site to site, and job to job.
This plan should cover:
- Site location (Address, description, work area, tasks)
- Site-specific fall hazards (e.g., Maximum height(s), roof slope if applicable, proximity to power lines, ground cover, etc.)
- Type of fall protection to be used, including anchor points, and clearance requirements
- Equipment inspection
- Any other requirements before beginning work (e.g., Presence of first aid or rescue personnel, other safety equipment, barricades, etc.)
- Rescue procedures
- Workers sign off
Each employee who may be exposed to fall hazards shall be trained to recognize the hazards and the procedures to follow to minimize the hazards. A competent person will provide the training.
The competent person must train employees in the following areas:
- fall hazards in the work area
- correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting the fall protection systems used
- selection, proper use and care of equipment comprising a personal fall arrest system
- role of employees in this plans
- what rescue procedures to follow in case of a fall
- overview of the OSHA fall protection standards
A training record shall be maintained for each employee. The record will contain the name of the employee trained, date of training and the signature of the person who conducted the training. Retraining shall be required every two years and if there is a change in the fall protection system being used or if an employee’s actions demonstrate that the employee has not retained the understanding or skills important to fall protection.
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