Why do we use fall protection? Well, the obvious reason is to protect people against falls. However, if falls are one of the most preventable accidents for many workplaces and job sites, why are so many employees hurt or even fatally injured by falls while on the job? Most likely it is due to not utilizing proper fall protection. Fall protection is an essential component to any workplace or job site that includes the risks for falls.
Safety.BLR.com mentions a study entitled “Fall Protection in Residential Construction Sites” included in the July issue of Professional Safety which states the following data after studying compliance at 197 residential construction sites:
They found only 59 percent compliance with fall protection/prevention measures. That means, for example, that workers installing roof tresses may stand on top of walls without fall arrest or protection.
The number of only 59% compliance is absolutely eye-opening. This means that 41% of employees at residential construction sites are not using adequate fall protection or possibly even no fall protection at all. The sad truth is that I honestly cannot even count how many times I have randomly driven by residential construction sites and seen workers traversing across house framing structures without any safety gear on at all besides a helmet. Fall protection will never be truly effective unless it is used and used consecutively.
Let’s discuss some of the basics of fall protection. Fall protection is designed to provide safety to users when either working at heights of six feet or more or when working around areas where there are drop-offs of six feet or more in the field of construction. Furthermore, OSHA states that fall protection must also be used when working around dangerous equipment or machinery regardless of the height. Fall protection includes three components: anchorage, body support, and connectors. The anchorage is the tie-off point or the secure point of attachment to a stationary object. The body support is the actual harness which straps on securely to the user, and the connectors are the devices used such as ropes or cables which connect the harness to the anchorage point.
Fall Protection Impacting Productivity
One of the biggest issues mentioned by the study above was the concern for a loss in productivity due to actually putting on and setting up the fall protection correctly. Safety.BLR.com states:
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There is a learning curve when using a new fall protection device; this can add time to the home building process, which is a major concern in the current economic environment
The article identifies solutions to overcoming these and other obstacles. Among them:
Repetitive use of a device to lead to long-term adoption of the technology;
Loaning of pilot-tested equipment to contractors to allow them to integrate it into their workplace before they buy it; and
Assistance by fall protection equipment rental companies to help contractors identify and locate the best equipment for a particular need.
These are great tips to consider when looking to purchase and implement fall protection into your business safety strategy. In the beginning, fall protection may just feel like an “extra” thing that needs to be done. However, once employees know and understand that fall protection must be used each and every time while working at specific heights it just becomes second nature to use it without question. Fall protection saves lives and should be a fundamental component utilized at all workplaces and job sites when necessary.