People in some corners of the internet share images like these for laughs. But if you’ve ever been injured in an on-the-job fall, you can see there are serious, even life-threatening hazards shown here. Fall protection is a major consideration for a wide range of businesses, and a major source of OSHA violations. Let’s take a closer look at the basic facts of fall protection. It can mean the difference between your employees going home at the end of the day, or ending up in the hospital.
Understanding Fall Protection
Workers from very different industries such as telecommunications, retail and construction have one very serious, very concerning thing in common: thousands of them suffer from falls on the job every year.
Injuries from workplace falls can be serious, even fatal. To protect your staff and keep up with OSHA regulations, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics of workplace fall safety. To help prevent this hazard, we offer this guide to the basics of fall protection.
When do I Need Fall Protection?
If your workplace has elevated workstations, overhead platforms or if you may be entering into confined spaces, it’s more likely than not that you need a fall protection system in place. In most situations, an elevation of four feet or more necessitates fall protection. For example, in shipyards, this is five feet, six feet on construction sites and eight feet for long shoring operations.
Four feet may not seem like a lot, but someone weighing 200 pounds falling from four feet could hit the ground with 1,600 pounds of force, according to Virginia Tech.
To help prevent this, OSHA requires employers to:
- Guard every floor hole into which someone could accidentally walk (using railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover)
- Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway
- If there is a risk of an employer falling into dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt), employers must provide guard rails and toe-boards regardless of height
Fall Protection Systems
Specific job sites require additional means of fall prevention such as safety harnesses and line systems using fall arrest posts. We can break these systems down into two main categories:
- Fall Protection Systems are required whenever a worker is exposed to a fall hazard. A common fall arrest system includes an anchor, harness, and connectors such as a Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL). These systems are designed to lock if a worker falls, preventing them from impacting the ground. Pelsue offers a variety of systems that can be used for this, including the LifeGuard and Davit systems.
- Retrieval systems are designed to rescue an employee after a fall has occurred. OSHA doesn’t give instructions on how retrieval systems should work, they just insist a plan be in place. Two primary methods of recovery are hoists, which can be anchored and used to lift a fallen employee, and poles. Both of these are especially well-suited to extracting someone from confined spaces. Pelsue offers systems for this as well, such as the LifeGuard, Tripod and Davit systems.
In 2018, nearly 200,000 workplace injuries occurred in the US as a result of falls. 726 people died from falls on the job, which translated to nearly 2 people a day. It is one of the leading causes of death on the job, after vehicle accidents. Nearly half of fatal falls occurred on construction sites, but incidents span multiple sectors to include any workplace where there is a potential fall hazard.
With numbers like that, it should be clear how important fall protection is for your workplace. Ensuring that everyone is able to go home safely at the end of the day the top job of any supervisor. Here at Pelsue, it’s part of why we do what we do. We’ve done it for over half a century, and we are proud to continue making it a part of who we are.