Dying at work is something that is never going to happen to us, right? We hear about it when it happens, it is tragic and we wish it were not true. The truth is that 345 people in the United States lose their lives at work every year from falls. Countless other lives don’t end in tragedy from a fall. It is because of fall arrest systems that prevent fatal falls, along with other kinds of fall protection.
It is the fact that we know how to prevent these deaths that makes us want to do all we can. When the deaths from falls are zero, we can rest. Until then we have a lot of work to do.
What are Fall Arrest Systems
A fall arrest system is a part of a much larger category of fall protection as defined by OSHA. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) defines fall protection as “any equipment, device or system that prevents a worker from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.”
Personal fall protection, for when a worker is working at heights, will stop a fall and can prevent injury or death when properly used.
Both shock absorbing and self-retracting lanyards will help to keep a worker from hitting the ground. The traditional shock-absorbing lanyard will allow a worker to fall up to 6 feet before it activates. While the self-retracting lanyard activates in a much shorter distance, it will activate in less than 2 feet to stop a free fall. It is important that whether you use the shock-absorbing or the self-retracting lanyard, that the anchor point is directly over the workers head. This will prevent the worker from swinging side to side and reduce the chance for other injuries.
All personal fall protection requires an anchor point. This is what gives a fall arrest system its strength. Without proper anchor points, the harness is just a fashion accessory. An anchor point must support 5,000 pounds per worker that is attached to the fall restraint system. A stationary anchor point is central to the work area and has 15 degrees of range. There must be anchor points to transition to so they are connected 100% of the time. If there are several workers using the same anchor points a mobile anchor point would be a better option. Mobile anchor points are attached to a monorail system that allows for more freedom and movement for workers. Both types of anchors give the needed strength to the shock-absorbing and self-retracting fall restraint equipment and help prevent falls from heights in the workplace.
How to Reduce Slips and Falls
There are a lot of good ways fall protection is used to reduce slips and falls, all of them require employee and manager to buy into the program.
Requiring the use of a fall arrest system by any company where falling from heights is a danger shows employees that their safety is important to their company.
Buy in by both sides helps to create an environment where safety is important and hold one another accountable. This helps to encourage the use of safety harnesses, personal protective equipment (PPE) and participate in the company safety program, making it more effective.
10 Fall Protection Practices That Makes The Work Place Safer
As previously mentioned OSHA has defined fall protection as a system that “prevents a worker from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.” But just knowing this doesn’t do much good, we must deploy the right safety equipment and practices to make fall protection effective:
Housekeeping is an easy problem to spot. If employees are not keeping their work area in order and clean you can see it. This one of the easiest problems to fix. It is also one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace.
Dirty work tools, power cords lying about, overflowing wastebaskets and an untidy appearance shouldn’t go without notice. Supplies stacked or stored in walkways or aisles ways are another problem that is easily fixed.
Preventing trips and falls starts with an obstruction-free workplace.
2. Keeping Walkways and Aisles Free of Clutter
This seems obvious and it really is but putting it into practice can become the real chore. Workers who fall behind or are having trouble with equipment tend to take shortcuts.
Putting supplies in walkways or aisles ways, even though the intent may be to place them there temporarily, create trip hazards. It really is a frame of mind that short cuts are not acceptable for the safety of everyone. Organized work areas are easy to navigate and don’t make “traps” for people who are working after each other.
3. Good Lighting
Simply put, if you can see where you are going and what you are doing it is much safer. Poor lighting is directly related to falls in the workplace.
Good lighting does not create shadows or glare. This type of lighting helps productivity, prevents eye strain and headaches.
Lighting should match the work being done in the area. For instance, if the need to tell the difference between colors is important then sunlight and full spectrum lighting is a must.
4. Using Fall Protection Systems
There are many kinds of fall protection, so it depends on the potential hazard for what system you would use.
Companies typically will provide fall protection for employees that will keep them safe for their job.
Ladders, scaffolding, railing and fall restraint systems. Each one is the right kind of protection for a certain kind of work. Ensuring this equipment will keep employees safe a person who is trained should inspect it for defects. This inspection should take place before and during each use.
5. Proper Training
Knowing how to use your fall arrest system or any other kind of safety equipment is as important as the equipment itself.
It is critical that the worker using the safety equipment understands the hazards they are working around and how the equipment they have is designed to protect them. If not they are opening themselves up to trips, falls and potential fatalities.
6. Not Wearing Poor or Improper Footwear
Working from heights can be dangerous without the proper footwear.
Wearing the right fall arrest system will allow you to do your job. It will prevent tripping and falling, injury and possibly death. Even with the right footwear working from heights can be very dangerous. Adding reliable fall protection can be the difference between a safe work environment and a dangerous one.
7. Avoiding Wet and Slippery Surfaces
If you work outdoors as a construction worker then you are most likely familiar with working on wet surfaces and possibly slippery ones too.
Not all construction workers are working at heights all the time, but during the course of a construction project working from heights seems fairly certain in most types of construction. Sloped surfaces can cause the same problem as at a wet or slippery surface. You need to have the right equipment to make working on these kinds of surfaces safe from falling.
8. Being Aware of Uneven or Damaged Walking Surfaces
Even a walking surface in the best condition has the potential to be a trip or falling hazard.
Power cords and any other work equipment can be left out and cause you to trip, lose your balance and fall. If a walking surface is uneven or damaged then it is only a matter of time before someone trips and falls if not repaired immediately. Working at ground level or any height above, uneven or damaged walking surfaces are an accident waiting to happen.
Being aware of the hazard is important but being aware is not enough to protect you from the potential danger.
9. Clearing an Obstructed View
Just like lighting and the need to be able to see where you are going, having an unobstructed view is important to walking and navigating safely through a work area.
Whenever possible clearing obstructions that limit your view should be done. If the conditions of the job site do not permit the removal of an obstructed view then extra precaution should be taken.
Whether the obstruction is removable or not, always wearing the correct safety equipment and following your companies safety procedures will help prevent accidents.
10. Being Alert of Surroundings
Finally, being aware of your surroundings might be the best practice of them all.
If you know what hazards and dangers are in your surroundings then you should know what safety equipment you need. If you are unsure then you should ask what you need to keep yourself safe. Ultimately it is up to us to keep ourselves safe and use the right safety equipment, whether it is a fall arrest system, protective gloves or safety goggles.
We need to keep ourselves safe and do all we can to help hold our co-workers accountable to help keep them safe too!
Choosing the Right Safety Equipment and Company
If you look online you will see there are many companies who sell and rent fall arrest systems along with other kinds of safety equipment.
Being able to sell and rent equipment is not what sets a company apart from another. Standing behind what you offer, and not only having the knowledge but being able to train others to be safe workers and companies.
That is what makes a real difference. Experience the difference for yourself and contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your company be a safer place to work.