Fall protection has been number one for the past few years on the annual list of workplace violations released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, “Fall Protection — General Requirements” tops the current list by a wide margin with 6,072 violations.
Falls from heights are a concern at many worksites and there are threshold heights established where various types of fall protection are required. For employees in general industry, the height is four feet above a lower level. In construction work, the threshold height is six feet above a lower level. Fall protection on scaffolding is required at ten feet.
Recently, OSHA also issued a new rule that applied to all general industry workplaces and covers all walking-working surfaces, unless an exemption applies. The final rule updated existing general industry requirements for walking-working surfaces. A walking-working surface is “any horizontal or vertical surface on or through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a workplace location.” See our previous article on this topic for more details.
In the coming weeks, we will tackle all of the frequently cited violations on OSHA’s top-10 list.
There are a number of ways employers can protect workers from falls, including through the use of conventional means such as guardrail systems, safety net systems and personal fall protection systems, the adoption of safe work practices, and the provision of appropriate training. The use of warning lines, designated areas, control zones and similar systems are permitted by OSHA in some situations and can provide protection by limiting the number of workers exposed.
Whether conducting a hazard assessment or developing a comprehensive fall protection plan, thinking about fall hazards before the work begins will help the employer to manage fall hazards and focus attention on prevention efforts. If personal fall protection systems are used, particular attention should be given to identifying attachment points and to ensuring that employees know how to properly use and inspect the equipment.
Effective fall protection comes in two basic forms: fall restraint systems (such as rails or toe boards) to prevent employers from falling in the first place, and fall arrest systems (including harnesses or safety nets) to break an employee’s fall.
Employers may consider some combination of the following:
Guardrails and handrails
Full-body or chest harness
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, but these are easily preventable. Numerous OSHA guidelines provide the framework for a safer construction site.
One key rule mandates that employers provide fall protection when an employee is working six feet or more above a lower level — or 10 feet when working on a scaffold.
The only exception to this rule is when an employer can demonstrate that such a system is infeasible or when the hazard is increased by using the system. In these cases, an employer must develop a fall protection plan specific to the site where the work is performed.
If you could give human form to your safety culture, what would it look like?
Maybe it would be a thick-set, shirtless brute named Trog with a foul disposition beating out a drum cadence to keep your employees rowing in-sync.
Or would it be more like a fussy and constantly disapproving Dickensian paper-pusher named Fizzlewhite who has never met a rule or procedure he didn’t like, even though he hasn’t done most of the things he creates rules to address?
If you were to search the various “mommy blogs” and parenting advice websites out there, how many of them do you think would endorse the following practice?
A child’s safety should always be a top priority for any parent. When leaving children under the age of 10 alone in the house for lengthy periods of time, be sure to provide the kids with a loaded pistol with the safety off in case a stranger should happen by. In a pinch, recently sharpened knives can be substituted for the pistol.
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