Staying safe and following safety protocols on the jobsite can often be sacrificed because of short timelines or the simple need to get a job done.
Time restraints and pressures can lead to unsafe practices, but it’s up to everyone on the jobsite to watch out for the safety of themselves and one another. It takes a conscious effort to make changes to a standard routine.
Even with national safety standards and guidelines from OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), construction crews may take shortcuts and wind up getting hurt. According to a 2014 OSHA report, 1.6 people die every business day (more than 300 people per year) from construction falls in the U.S. Falls are also the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry. What may be surprising is that more than half of all falls occurred at a height of 10 feet or less. And it takes just one second to fall 16 feet.
Accidents can be prevented by using the right equipment in the correct way. In construction work, lack of fall protection is the leading cause of fatalities and OSHA’s most frequently cited standard. Regulations require fall protection when working at heights above 6 feet. For professional contractors, builders and safety professionals who depend on safe access at any height, it is important to consider some of the different scenarios that require fall protection equipment.
Following are jobsite scenarios where fall protection is required.
- An unprotected edge—any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a walking work surface where there is no wall or guard rail system of at least 39 inches.
- A leading edge—the edge of a floor, roof or deck, which changes location as additional floors, roofs, decking or sections are placed, formed or constructed.
- A hoist area—where a worker is raised or lifted by mechanical means.
- Holes—including skylight roof openings.
- Working with dangerous equipment like machinery in elevated areas.
- Areas including ramps, runways, evacuations, steep roofs and low sloped roofs.
Fall protection has many components that need to be checked and properly secured in order for the protection to be fully effective and working at its safest capacity. Components of a complete fall protection system can include a harness, lanyard, anchor, connecting device, retractable or vertical lifeline and accessories. Also important is the educational component for how all of these various pieces fit properly and work together to protect lives on the jobsite.
The first step in ensuring safety at heights on the jobsite is the proper fall protection equipment installation or fitting. Following are a few tips for proper usage of each fall protection system component. Supplemental to these tips should be a thorough understanding of the regulations, documentation requirements, training and protocol for removing equipment from service.
Recommendations for Fall Protection Installation
Full Body Harness Recommendations:
- centered chest strap;
- no loose straps and all straps are properly routed;
- shoulder straps and sub-pelvic straps correctly placed; and
- dorsal D-ring, the main attachment point for lanyards, vertical lifelines and retractables, is placed correctly.
Connecting Device Recommendations:
- must be self-locking and self-closing;
- requires two separate actions to open; and
- 5,000-pound minimum breaking strength.
- Retractable lifelines must attach directly to the back D-ring or to a non-shock-absorbing extension. If using a pouch style lanyard, make sure to attach the pouch end to the harnesses back D-ring.
- Never tie a lanyard back into itself unless it is specifically designed to do so.
- Always tie off as high as possible to reduce free fall distance.
- If tying off at the waist or lower, use a lanyard designed specifically for that application.
- Make sure that the connection is secure and properly closed.
Vertical Lifeline Recommendations:
- Keep in mind that a vertical lifeline requires extra clearance.
- Always use a 3-foot lanyard.
- Ensure the rope grab is above the D-ring or within safe reach at all times and is adjusted as the worker moves along the rope.
Before starting any job, inspect all equipment to ensure it is working properly and will hold up in case of an accident. In addition, be sure to select an equipment manufacturer’s product that includes brightly colored webbing designed to show when the product is damaged or worn and needs to be taken out of service. This extra level of inspectability is critical for professionals who rely on high-quality products to protect their lives at all heights.
Creating an environment of safety is critical to preventing injuries on the job for everyone. Encourage proactive behavior and focus on fall protection as the most common category for failures to ensure everyone stays safe on the job.