Falls cost business owners millions of dollars each year in lost time, compensation and third party lawsuits. However, with the right mix of per-job planning, proper equipment selection and employee education and training, workers can continue to work at heights while limiting injuries and their associated costs.
A number of nationally recognized standards and legislative requirements govern the use and need for fall protection. Typically, fall protection is required when working six feet above the level or obstruction below, or when a fall from a lesser height may result in a serious injury. There are a number of important ingredients that must be included in any good fall prevention or protection program. These include identification of the fall hazards, implementation of a company policy, selection and use of the proper equipment and/or systems, and an in-depth training program including rescue.
The term fall protection encompasses a broad spectrum of techniques, equipment, and legislation to help minimize injury and damage due to falls. However, where possible, a fall prevention approach should be taken to eliminate the fall altogether. Some examples would include engineering out the hazard by relocating a valve to a more accessible location, using site fall protection systems such as guardrails and floor covers, and implementing Fall Restraint Systems where possible.
Due to feasibility issues, cost and/or time restraints, fall prevention systems cannot always be used. For these situations, a fall arrest system can be used to limit injury to a worker by stopping the fall prior to the worker hitting the level below. Personal fall arrest systems are, at times, much more complex and require more detailed and comprehensive training to be effective and ensure safety. Further, the fall arrest system must limit the forces on the worker to less than 1,800 pounds.