If you work within residential or commercial construction sector, it is crucial that every aspect of your business is compliant with the rules and regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Outside of ensuring that all of your workers are safe, no construction business owner wants to lose out on profits from something that could’ve been prevented by following OSHA regulations. There is perhaps no safety practice more important than fall protection — a fall can mean drastic consequences for not only the employee but also the firm that could’ve prevented the fall.
There are several types of fall protection, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. However, we have found that employing a fall restraint system is the most effective way to protect workers and remain OSHA compliant. If you are unsure what type of fall protection is necessary for your construction site, consult one of our construction lawyers today.
Fall Protection Systems
There are three main types of fall protection systems: prevention, arrest, and restraint. These types of protection can be categorized as either active or passive. Passive fall protection systems attempt to disable workers from being exposed to scenarios where they are likely to fall, while active systems are used as a last resort to help people mid-fall and require training to work properly.
Fall prevention is a form of passive fall protection that utilizes a perimeter system, such as a guardrail, in order to stop accidents. Many roofing companies and construction firms prefer this method because workers are protected as soon as they enter a jobsite. Unfortunately, this protection system can inhibit access to certain locations for workers, which means it is not a viable option in many cases.
Fall arrest systems stand alone as the only form of active protection and should be used in very specific scenarios, never as the main source of fall protection. This is because fall arrest systems leave the most room for human error. Not only do workers need to be trained on how to use the system, but they also need to be comfortable enough to utilize this system during the panic of falling. There is even the possibility that, if they do not use the system correctly, they could put themselves at risk of further injury. Fall arrest systems do allow the widest range of motion, but they should always be utilized with an additional restraint system.
A fall restraint system is generally the preferred method of fall protection. It’s a passive form of protection that is highly effective and doesn’t require extensive training. A fall restraint system also gives workers a solid range of motion and prevents workers from reaching an unprotected edge. There are many types of fall restraint systems, such as a single point anchor or horizontal lifeline systems. All variations feature a body harness for the worker that is connected via lanyard to an anchor point. OSHA acknowledges that it accepts “properly utilized fall restraint systems in lieu of fall arrest systems when the restraint system is rigged in such a way that the employee cannot get to the fall hazard.”
Fall Protection Anchor Points
Fall protection systems are only as effective as the fall protection equipment being utilized, such as the anchoring system. Moreover, various jobs require different kinds of anchoring systems. Single point anchors are cost effective and easy for workers to use but don’t allow a wide range of motion, making them ideal for jobs such as rooftop and window washing applications. Horizontal lifeline systems are more beneficial for jobs on sites without pre-existing fall protection anchor points. These systems consist of a cable attached to two or more anchor points on an outdoor jobsite.
The important thing to understand is what exactly OSHA qualifies as roof safety equipment and how to correctly employ this equipment to prevent injuries on the project site. One important aspect of this is the proper implementation of anchor points. OSHA defines the parameters for a safe anchorage point within Section 1910.66 (Appendix C) that states each anchorage point should support 5,000 pounds per employee attached. OSHA requires these parameters because a worker will usually survey a location (with an “eyeball” estimate) and make a good faith assessment that a particular anchor point can bear a 5,000 pound load. Some structures that are unsuitable as anchor points include guardrails, railings, ladders, scaffolding, piping, rebar, roof stacks, and other unstable site fixtures.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.