Fall Protection Training Program
Construction work may become risky in areas prone to falls. Falls lead to numerous injuries, some of which may be fatal to the workers, accounting for a significant number of deaths within the construction industry. Employers in construction have the responsibility of ensuring safety for all workers on construction sites at risk of falls. Therefore, each employer must undergo a mandatory training process to understand some of the risks associated with working at a height and manage to avoid them. This is a fall training program that managers should provide to all employees, detailing how to identify and avoid risks that may arise in fall prone areas. On the same note, this program is in line with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. Fall protection involves taking definite steps that should help reduce or eliminate injuries that arise from an unintentional fall while working on a site at some height (Ellis, 2011).
Accidents and their Effects
Health and safety program is a plan that seeks to protect a very valuable asset of any company — the worker. Construction work may involve scaling heights; risky working sites that are prone to accidents. Falls are attributed to countless injuries in the construction industry. According to the OSHA statistics, more than 1000 fatalities occur each year due to falls, a serious setback to the industry. In some cases, such accidents lead to minor injuries, while others lead to serious injuries and loss of life (Personal Fall Arrest System, OSHA). The effects of such accidents are economical in nature and may work to the disadvantage of the company. For example, the company has a responsibility to take care of the workers who have been injured by settling hospital bills and other expenses. Note that after an accident, the worker may no longer be productive to the company and the industry, due to their injuries. Therefore, there is a need for all employers to understand potential fall risks and learn to avoid the same during work on the site.
Other than just the financial expenses that a company is required to settle, manpower loss is another reality. A fall may lead to the incapacitation or loss of some of the productive employees within a company. As noted above, workers are the most important asset of the construction industry (Personal Fall Arrest System, OSHA). Replacing an injured worker is much more expensive than training and equipping all workers to understand and deal with the risk of falls while working. This training program ensures that all workers become aware of the potential risks, and at the same time take necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
Hazard Analysis/Prevention and Safety Management
Fatal and Non-Fatal falls
Fatal falls do occur at different parts of the construction site, each part contributing a certain percentage of the overall number of falls. For example, fatal falls from roofs contribute 37%, scaffolds – 20%, ladders – 15%, structural steel – 9%, non-moving vehicles – 3%, loading docks and floors – 4%, and others – 12%. Moreover, non-fatal falls may also occur from the same places; however, with different percentages (Fall Protection, OSHA).
Planning for Fall Protection
There is a need to plan for fall protection for each worker something that requires awareness of some of the potential dangers. This demands that all stages of construction work integrate fall protection measures in order to keep every phase safe for the workers. Such integral plans help in reducing exposures to the risk of fall by all workers on the site. The best fall protection plan should entail the following: Fall Arrest, Fall Prevention, Positioning and Retrieval.
Figure 1. Fall Protection Plan Sequence
Fall protection is required:
- When there is a risk of falling onto dangerous equipment. In this case, no fall distance is allowed.
- When working on forms or steel reinforcements that are more than 6″ high.
- When working on scaffolds that are more than 6″ high.
- When working or walking on surfaces raised to more than 6″ high in a general construction setup.
- When working with vertical ladders with no cages, and having a height more than 24″.
All workers must be aware of the potential fall dangers around walking and working surfaces. Some of the fall dangers come from the open-sided floors, holes on the working surfaces and leading edges. Open sided floors must have appropriate guardrails to avoid possibilities of falling away. On the same note, workers should have restraint devices that help keep the worker at a safe distance within the working area (Ellis, 2011). Wooden guardrails should be constructed in order to offer adequate strength and with enough height. Cable guardrails can also be used. Holes within working areas should either be closed or marked, or have guardrails to avoid accidental falls.
Figure 2. Securing Holes
Personal Fall Arrest Systems
Personal Fall Arrest Systems can be used in cases where fall prevention methods may not be appropriate. Such a system helps in protecting a worker from hitting a lower level after a fall. The following are the components of the Personal Fall Arrest Systems: an anchorage point, deceleration devices, body harness and connectors (Fall Protection, OSHA).
Anchorages should support 5000 lbs per every worker attached. In the same manner, the fall arrest anchor should support 1000 lbs of each attached employee.
Figure 3. Different Anchors
Connectors help the worker to tie off to various anchorages (see below). Note that guardrails should never be used as anchorages.
Figure 5. Types of Connectors
Body harness equipment must be inspected by relevant professionals before use. In addition, no modification should be made to the equipment, and each defective harness must be put out of service immediately. Each harness should be sized for individual worker to enhance safety, in case of a fall. An individual worker should weigh between 130 to 300 lbs in order to use a body harness. Below is the best method of installing a body harness:
Planning for a Rescue
Working in an area with a high probability of using a body harness requires a ready rescue plan. Every employee must be aware of the rescue plan as stated in the hazard analysis of the company. The objective of this plan is to rescue the worker as soon as possible, desirably within fifteen minutes from the body harness. All the necessary equipment to help unconscious patients should be always on site (Personal Fall Arrest System, OSHA).
Safety management requires that a safety monitoring system is in place to ensure safety of all employees. A safety monitor is responsible for alerting and warning all employees of the potential fall dangers. Such a person should be competent enough to understand the work environment and the potential fall hazards (Fall Protection, OSHA). The monitor should also be close enough to the workers to have verbal communication when needed.
The OSH Act, Standards, and Liability
The OSH Act helps to formulate some of the health and safety program intended to help avoid workplace injuries, illnesses and even deaths. The Act also brings forth acceptable practices that guide employers and employees to overcome certain financial hardships that may arise from work accidents. Therefore, managers have the responsibility to design a safety program that ensures that the workplace is not prone to accidents (Ellis, 2011). On the same note, employees have the responsibility to follow all the guidelines in place as per the OSHA. Accidents that occur by not implementing OSHA or by not following the laid safety training program do not give liability under the Act.
Theories of Causation
Construction accidents may occur because of a number of reasons. Certain theories have been advanced in an attempt to understand some of the causes of fall accidents. The first theory is known as the Accident Proneness Theory, which argues that certain persons may be prone to accidents in a construction site, depending on their ability to take risks (Ellis, 2011). Therefore, workers may be in a similar working space, but have varied susceptibility to accidents. On the same note, the Adjustment Stress Theory explains that certain internal environmental factors like fatigue or personal problems and external environmental factors like noise and physical strain may increase the chances of a fall. In most cases, the inability to adjust to such environmental factors does increase the chances of accidents and injuries (Fall Protection, OSHA).
Ellis, J. N. (2011). Introduction to fall protection (4th Ed.). American Society of Safety
“Fall Protection”. United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. Retrieved January 6, 2017 from https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10758
“Personal Fall Arrest System”. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. United States
Dept. of Labor. Retrieved January 6, 2017 from https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9730