Safety Services Company
September 24th 2019
As part of our continued focus on OSHA’s Top Ten most frequently cited violations to its standards, in this article we will focus specifically on Fall Protection as it is the number one most commonly cited standard for 2018. The number of citations against this standard exceed 6,000, with industries such as construction and manufacturing identified as top offenders. Considered one of Construction’s ‘Fatal Four’, falls from height accounted for 381 out of 971 deaths in 2017 in the construction sector, and was the leading cause of construction worker deaths. Additionally, according to the National Safety Council, falls amount to roughly $70 billion in both workplace compensation and medical costs in the United States.
Fall Protection is not something that should be taken lightly by any company because the consequences of a breach in policy can result in death or serious injury to workers engaging in work at heights. Therefore, today we will be looking at how Fall Protection has evolved over the years, as well as new and emerging trends in the Fall Protection industry.
Fall Protection, like most types of workplace safety, has evolved significantly since the early 1900s where fall protection was unregulated. The Occupational Safety and Health Act came into force in 1970, but prior to this Work at Height was carried out without any type of Fall Protection in place. Iconic pictures of workers posing on I-beams while working on major buildings such as the Chrysler Tower depict the utter lack of workplace safety that existed during this time. After the enactment of the OSH Act however, workplace safety began to evolve in response to costly litigation and an increasing awareness of the dangers to workers from unmitigated hazards that could cause serious injury or death.
Fall Protection encompasses all categories that define controls used to prevent injuries resulting from a fall. Fall elimination, fall prevention, fall arrest, and administrative controls are systems used in order to prevent falls from height. The hierarchy of Fall Protection that should generally be followed in order to prevent a fall states that:
Employers must understand any areas that pose a risk to workers, including overhead platforms or areas that may have unguarded holes in walking, working surfaces. Under OSHA 1926.502, employers have a duty to provide and install all fall protection systems that are required as per section 1926.501 and required by that subpart of the OSH Act.
Section 1926.502 outlines various types of fall protection systems, which include the following:
Special consideration should also be given to work carried out above dangerous equipment or work taking place over water. OSHA’s standard for fall protection stipulates that it is required for any work carried out at elevations over 4 feet under its General Industry standard, and at 6 feet under its Construction standard.
There are a number of new and developing technologies emerging on the market that aim to prevent injuries due to a fall from height, in addition to the wide range of conventional fall protection methods:
There are several companies that offer the products identified above. However, when research to determine the best solution for your business and your employees, it is always important to understand the requirements under OSHA Subpart M- Fall Protection, to ensure that any Fall Protection first meets and if possible exceeds the regulations and is in full compliance with OSHA. Employers seeking to understand more about Fall Protection should become familiar with Subpart M in order to protect their employees from fall hazards. Any tools, equipment or controls implemented to prevent falls should also be compliant with applicable standards and regulations for Fall Protection.
Subpart M details not only the Scope and application of the standard, but also provides information on the duty of employers, fall protection systems and criteria and training requirements for employees. OSHA also provides resources to employers seeking to comply with the Fall Protection standard on its website. These resources can be used to provide training on fall prevention specifically targeting construction industry workers.
Additionally, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has recently revised Z.359.1- American National Standard Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and components in 2016. Both of these standards provide critical information to educated employers and workers alike on Fall Protection systems required in the workplace.
To learn how we can solve your company’s fall protection needs, check out our products and services here or call us at (866) 329-5407 today.