Fall Prevention

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls continue to be a leading cause of occupational injuries and fatalities. Falls to lower levels accounted for more than 10 percent of fatal work injuries in 20131. Employers have a duty to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards; including fall hazards. Regulations for controlling fall exposures vary by industry and occupation. Significant advancements in fall protection products and education in the past decade have made controlling fall exposures easier than ever. An effectively managed fall protection program as outlined in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z359.2 is a best practice for evaluating and controlling fall hazards.

Equipment and Systems

The energy industry presents a variety of safety challenges for those working at heights. Whether it’s in turbine construction or maintenance, installation and maintenance of solar panels and equipment on roofs and elevated surfaces, or rescue/evacuation efforts, proper controls should be in place to help reduce the risk of a fall. Equipment and systems for protection from falls can be broken down into two main categories: passive systems such as guardrail systems and active systems such as fall restraint, fall arrest and lifelines. Scaffolding, ladders and aerial lift equipment can use a combination of these two systems.

Personal Fall Protection

Often workers may be required to work at elevated levels that are not protected by passive protection systems. When working in these areas, workers may have to use personal fall protection equipment and systems.

Personal fall protection equipment and systems can include, but are not  limited to, full body harnesses, connectors, anchorages, horizontal/vertical lifelines, fall restraint, body positioning and rescue.  These types of fall protection systems can be complicated and the requirements are outlined in the ANSI Z359 group of standards.

  • Inspect personal protection equipment before and during each use. It also should be inspected by a competent person, other than the user, on an annual basis.
    • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and ANSI standards and regulations require following the equipment manufacturers instructions for inspection, care, use, maintenance and removal from service.
  • Training workers exposed to fall hazards.
    • OSHA and ANSI standards and regulations require that workers exposed to fall hazards be trained in the hazards that are present, the protection provided to control these hazards, as well as the use, inspection, maintenance and limitations of available fall protection systems.
    • Workers also should be trained in the rescue plan.  Fall rescue is an often overlooked component of a managed fall protection program.

 

1 Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014; data for 2013 is preliminary.

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