In 2017, fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, accounting for 17% of worker deaths.
If you have employees working at heights, simply providing fall protection equipment is not enough to prevent workers from becoming seriously hurt or even killed. As an employer, you are held legally responsible for providing a fall protection plan (and fall rescue plan) for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards, according to OSHA Statute 1926.503(a)(1)
Not sure where to begin?
How to Create A Fall Protection Plan – including a Rescue Plan
- Identify potential fall hazards in the work area
- Select the proper protection equipment
- Create a formal, written fall protection and rescue plan
- Train your employees and practice post-fall rescues
- Schedule refresher training on a regular basis
Identify Fall Hazards in the Work Area
In order to create a successful fall protection plan, start by identifying any existing and potential fall hazards in your work area. Failure to identify fall hazards is an OSHA violation that could lead to major fines as well as endanger the lives of your employees.
A safety inspection from a specialist trained in fall prevention is your best asset for quickly and effectively identifying potential fall hazards. This guidance is not only important to best equip your team, but also provides a foundation for your documented plan.
Determining Proper Fall Protection Equipment
OSHA allows some flexibility when it comes to the type of fall protection equipment employers must provide, since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, you’ll want some assistance with specific guidelines for your industry to ensure you’re keeping your employees safe with the proper equipment.
- Fall Restraint System – Prevents a worker from reaching the edge of a fall hazard by restricting their movement to a specific area.
- Fall Arrest System – Protects a worker after they fall by stopping the fall before the person hits the surface below.
The fall prevention system you need will depend upon your work environment and best safety practices for your employees.
Fall Protection Training: What to do Before and After the Fall
Your training plan should address four stages of fall protection: before the fall, at fall arrest, suspension, and post-fall rescue. Each stage presents its own safety challenges, and workers need to be trained on how to respond, including:
- Education on fall hazards associated with the work area
- Proper use of all personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Proper fitting and use of personal fall arrest systems
- How to assemble and disassemble equipment
- How to maintain and inspect equipment
- Proper handling and storage of PPE to prevent damage like rust and corrosion
- Post-fall rescue education on physical hazards
- Post-fall rescue training
Post-Fall Rescue Plan – It’s the Law
Did you know providing prompt rescue to fallen harnassed workers is also the law? OSHA Statute 1910.140 (c)(21) states that the employer shall provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall.
Why the Law? Suspension Trauma Kills
Fallen workers could be left hanging too long in their harness, which can lead to suspension trauma. Also known as ‘harness hang syndrome’ or ‘orthostatic intolerance,’ suspension trauma occurs when blood flow to major arteries is cut off by the harness straps due to the pressure of the body weight and/or damage caused by the fall. Prolonged suspension, in severe cases, causes unconciousness and leads to cardiac arrest.
Despite best efforts to prevent falls in the work area, there’s always a possibility that someone will fall – and you need train your workers on how to provide a fast rescue.
With post-fall rescue training, workers will have the confidence to respond quickly and effectively. Your employees will know what to do, how much time they have, and how to make a safe rescue.
Providing fall training and a prompt rescue to workers is every employer’s responsibility. If you already have a documented plan, review your protocols, train your employees, and practice rescues on a regular basis. Keep an eye out for exposing weaknesses and areas in need of improvement.
If you don’t have a fall prevention and rescue plan, our safety specialists will assess your work operation and assist you in creating a formal, written plan to prevent fall related tragedies from happening.