To some, “falls might sound like a problem with a simple solution,” cautions Glorianna Corman, senior risk management consultant at Lafayette, CO-based KPA. “But they continue to be the most frequently cited OSHA violation and leading cause of fatalities in the workplace.”
Michel Goulet, rope access business development manager at Petzl in Salt Lake City, offered one reason why that may be: “Many safety professionals alert workers of the ground clearance requirements when selecting different personal fall arrest systems – while neglecting to have them consider for obstructions that they can encounter during their free fall and deceleration distance.”
So, how can employers best protect workers at height?
“To mitigate fall hazards, it’s critical for companies to understand OSHA’s fall protection standard,” Corman said. “When working with dangerous equipment and machinery or performing work at height of 4 feet or more in general industry (6 feet or more in construction), employers must have measures in place to prevent employees from falling.
“To mitigate falls, employers should implement fall prevention and fall protection protocols. Prevention has two categories – elimination and restraint.”
When elimination isn’t a possibility, employers need to make sure they’re buying the right equipment. According to Goulet, “Keeping the total fall distance to an absolute minimum is always best for the worker’s safety.”
Corman shared a story related to this: “One time I noticed a fall harness hooked up to a 6-foot lanyard that was tied off to a 25-foot lifeline. The employee was only working at a height of about 20 feet. That employer didn’t realize that its employee would hit the ground before this fall protection equipment would catch him, basically rendering it useless.”
Corman also asked of employers, “Did you also know that your fall protection equipment has an expiration date on it?”
She said that employers should know how old their fall protection equipment is, and purchase new protection equipment upon expiration. “Identifying fall risks and hazards in the workplace can be a big undertaking, but can save lives.”
Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association