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FALL PROTECTION

Nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day. The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for all industries. Studies show that using guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems can prevent many deaths and injuries from falls.

STEPS TO HELP REDUCE FALLS

  • Select fall protection systems appropriate for given situations.

  • Construct and/or install all fall protection systems in accordance with manufacture guidelines.

  • Supervise employees properly.

  • Use safe work procedures.

  • Train workers in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of fall protection systems.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of all steps.

  • Control fall exposures.

  • Review the pre-task plan or job hazard analysis with employees for work requiring fall prevention.

 

RULES/REQUIREMENTS

The general construction fall protection rule (29 CFR 1926, Subpart M) covers most construction workers except those inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions prior to the actual start of work or after all work is done.

 

The rule sets a uniform threshold height of six feet. This means Pheifer must protect our employees from fall hazards whenever an employee is working six feet or more above a lower level. Employees, please also take responsibility for yourselves and your co-workers by choosing to take the time to be safe. If you see something or need new or replacement gear, ask.

 

Protection must also be provided for construction workers who are exposed to the hazard of falling into dangerous equipment. Each employee less than six feet above dangerous equipment must be protected from falling by a guardrail system or equipment guard. If the employee is six feet or more above the equipment, the protection must be a guardrail, personal fall arrest, or safety net system.

 

The rule identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed. Some of these include:

  • Excavations

  • Holes

  • Formwork and reinforcing steel

  • Leading edge work

  • Unprotected sides and edges

  • Overhead bricklaying and related work

  • Precast concrete erection

  • Working over water

 

TYPES OF FALL PROTECTION

The three most common methods of providing fall protection are guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems. These are referred to as primary systems.

 

  • Guardrails

    • Guardrails are barriers put up to prevent falls to a lower level. They can be used to protect you from falls: from unprotected sides and edges; during leading edge work; through holes - including skylights; from ramps, runways, or other walkways; and into or onto dangerous equipment.

 

  • Safety Nets

    • Safety nets are used as protection at unprotected sides, leading edges, working on the face of formwork or reinforcing steel, overhead or below surface bricklaying, work on roofs, precast concrete work, residential construction, and wall openings.

 

  • Personal Fall Arrest Equipment

    • Body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system. Body belts are okay when used as positioning devices.

    • Only locking type snap hooks can be used.

    • Personal fall arrest equipment protects you from falling when working around unprotected sides and edges, leading edge work, in hoist areas when loading or unloading materials, form and reinforcing steel work, overhead or below surface bricklaying, work on low-sloped or steep roofs, precast concrete work, residential construction, and wall openings.

 

  • Other Fall Protection Systems

    • The fall protection rule lists other systems and equipment you can use in certain situations. Some of them are safety monitoring systems, warning lines, and positioning devices.

    • In order to use any of the systems and equipment described above, you must be trained to do so by your company "competent person." All foreman that work for Pheifer are certified as “competent persons”. If you have questions or concerns, please always bring them up to your foreman or project manager.

 

INSPECT YOUR GEAR

You trust your life to your fall protection equipment. It makes a lot of sense to take time and inspect the equipment. But you don't have much choice: OSHA requires that fall protection equipment be inspected before each use. If the equipment is defective, you must remove it from service.

What Should You Look For?

The following are some of the common causes of wear, damage, and deterioration of fall pro­tection equipment. (Always read and follow the manufacturer's inspection guidelines for detailed inspection requirements.)

  • Connectors and snap hooks

    • If you fall, the first component that will be stressed is the connector or snap hook. Make sure the snap hooks are operating properly. Carefully inspect all the metal hardware for damage or defects.

  • Excessive dirt

    • Construction work can be very dirty, and your fall protection gear can get grimy fast. All sorts of contaminates can come into contact with the harness or lanyard webbing. The web­bing is made of fibers and when these fibers get dirty, they can weaken as the dirt abrades the fibers. Try to keep your fall protection gear as clean as possible.

  • Fading

    • The sun's rays can damage harness fibers. Since every harness is exposed to different amounts of the UV rays it's hard to tell which ones could fail. If your harness is stiff and/or faded, you may want to have a competent person, or the manufacturer, inspect it to see if it's still providing the needed protection and is safe to use.

  • Cuts, tears, and holes

    • Inspect the webbing for tears, cuts, or holes. The webbing can be damaged or worn from con­stant contact with tools, equipment, or materials. Look at the edges of the webbing, but don't forget areas around snap hooks, buckles, or connectors.

  • Burns or areas that look eaten away

    • Fall protection equipment used in hazardous environments (chemical mixing, molten metal pouring, welding and other hot work) needs special attention. Certain chemicals can eat into the fibers, destroying them and causing the webbing to fail. Webbing can be severely damaged in a very short period of time in an environment like this.

  • How Often Should You Inspect the Gear?

    • You may need to inspect your gear several times during the course of a shift if working in a hazardous location or with dangerous materials. The consequences of having your fall protection fail should be the driving force behind your equipment inspection process.

Sources:

http://www.cawp.org/doc/Falls.pdf