- Identify the most common hazards posed by falling and the reasons you should use fall protection equipment
- Identify the different fall protection systems, including fall restraining, fall arrest, and work positioning systems
- Identify the components of a personal fall arrest system and how they work together to arrest a fall
- Identify key fall arrest system design and selection requirements
- Identify the steps for properly inspecting and donning the most common fall arrest system equipment
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Falls, along with electrical, caught-in, and struck-by hazards account for the majority of the injuries and fatalities in construction and are collectively known as the "Fatal Four" hazards. Falls from heights are the single-greatest source of injury, accounting for thirty-eight percent of all construction fatalities.
Laws and regulations require that employers strive to protect employees from fall hazards by implementing written programs that inform employees of fall hazards and the means for preventing and controlling falls. Such programs must identify fall hazards, identify the personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers from those hazards, and train workers to properly use and maintain their PPE.
Fall prevention efforts can include pre-task planning, where supervisors and workers review the hazards specific to the job tasks and the preventative measures (including PPE) that will protect them from those hazards. Following fall protection requirements, including properly wearing and attaching your personal fall arrest system, can save your life!
Common Construction Fall Hazards
- Leading edges on roofs or levels of a constructed building or around open excavations;
- Scaffold systems that lack proper guardrail protection;
- Open holes in floors that are improperly guarded;
For example, fall protection is required when working:
- From self-supporting scaffolding at heights of 10 feet (3.05 m) or greater
- On steel erection 15 to 30 feet (4.6 to 9.1 m) off the ground
- On almost all other types of construction when a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 m) or more exists
Fall protection is not required for self-supporting step ladders or extension ladders, erecting or dismantling scaffold, performing certain steel erection work operations, or working from a scissor lift (with integral fall protection in the form of a guardrail.
Fall prevention barriers are used to minimize employee exposure to fall hazards. Guardrail systems may be used extensively throughout the work site. Permanent guardrails can be placed on stairways, landings, work platforms, and equipment access platforms. Temporary guardrails are used on scaffolds and at construction sites, excavation sites, and other areas where a temporary fall hazard exists.
Warning Line Systems
- Used at construction sites and excavation sites when exposure to fall hazards will be for a short time;
- Consist of ropes, wires, or chains, and supporting stanchions;
- Must be flagged at least every six feet with high-visibility material;
- Signage may be posted indicating controlled access during construction;
Perimeter Safety Cables
Perimeter safety cables prevent exposure to fall hazards on multi-story structures, around shaft openings, and around the exterior perimeter of each floor. Safety cables must be installed and tensioned to regulatory performance specifications and include high visibility flags placed no more than 6 feet (1.8 m) apart
- Competent personnel assigned to keep others away from a fall hazard
- Must not perform any other duties
- Should only be utilized when all other means of fall protection are not possible
- Circumstances for using warning monitors must be specifically described in your company’s fall protection requirements
Fall Restraint Systems
Fall restraint systems protect you from reaching a potential fall hazard by limiting your proximity to it. These systems eliminate the possibility of falling by tethering you so that you cannot physically fall any distance. Fall restraint devices are not meant to position or hold you in place so that you can perform hands-free work.
Fall Arrest Systems
Fall arrest systems allow you to work at heights and, in the event of a fall, prevent you from contacting a lower level. Fall arrest systems differ from fall restraint systems in that they protect you when you are already in the process of falling.
Fall arrest devices include:
- Work positioning systems
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall arrest systems
Personal Fall Arrest System Components
A – Anchor: An anchor is a secure point attached to a fixed structural component, like a beam or column.
B - Body Harness: A body harness is a body support device that distributes fall arrest forces across the shoulders, thighs, and pelvis.
C – Connectors: Connectors include any piece of equipment that links the body harness to the anchor. Connectors commonly consist of snap hooks affixed to a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline (SRL) that arrests the body during a fall.
A deceleration device is a mechanism that serves to slow the rate of a fall to limit the forces and stress on your body. Deceleration devices vary widely, but the fall arrest distance generally ranges from several inches up to 5 feet (1.5 m).
Fall protection equipment must:
- Prevent a worker from falling more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) per construction standards, or prevent a free fall of more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) per general industry standards
- Limit deceleration distance to no more than 3.5 feet (1 meter)
- Include anchorage points capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (2268 kg) of static weight per worker attached
Inspecting and Donning a Personal Fall Arrest System
Before putting on your fall protection harness, you need to first inspect it thoroughly.
Make sure the shoulder straps and leg straps are snug while still allowing full range of motion.
Connecting your personal fall arrest equipment to an anchorage point is called “tying off.” Before tying off, inspect the snap hook or carabiner to verify it is functioning properly. Attach the connector to your harness using the D-ring on your back between your shoulders, or to the rings in front if appropriate for the task. Attach to the designated anchorage or anchorage point in a manner that limits your potential free fall distance to as short as possible, and not more than 6 feet.
Your employer must be prepared to promptly conduct a rescue or ensure you have self-rescue capabilities in the event of a fall.
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