Here at Enviro Safety Products, one of our top concerns is fall protection. It’s estimated that the new fall regulations that OSHA introduced last autumn (where does the time go, right?) affected 112 million workers at 6.9 million establishments. To be fair to the employers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single one of those people were risking life and limb completely unprotected. Most employers are conscientious of fall risk and provide protection equipment. But we have learned more about how to best implement fall protection and that new knowledge was incorporated into the standards, which had a wide effect on the industry.
For us, safety literacy is a major focus. We don’t just want customers to come here to shop, we want to help them learn what’s best for them and their workers. That means providing resources they can consult when they’re in need of guidance to make the right purchasing choices. For fall protection, we’ve developed a convenient acronym, the ABC’s of fall protection:
Descent and rescue
Fall protection for tools
Anchorage is the most fundamental aspect of fall protection. The anchorage point is where the system connects to the larger structure. They typically take the form of a metal ring attached to a cable choker, fixed beam, or concrete strap that then anchors to the structure. They are designed to be independent of other anchorage elements, and are typically rated to support 5,000 lbs. They must be installed with qualified supervision.
Body harnesses are the instantly recognizable body-cradling straps that provide the first line of defense. They support the user while they work and keep them suspended in the event of a fall. Many varieties are available, typically featuring D-rings on the back and hips to attach lifelines, lanyard, and tools, as well as an impact indicator that shows at a glance if the harness has been worn in a fall (at which point it is discarded).
Connectors provide the vital link between the anchorage and the harness. The two basic categories are lanyards and self-retracting lifelines (SRLs). Both of them must have the ability to absorb and neutralize the dangerous forces that a falling body generates. Lanyards do the job with stretchable core material, while SRLs have a sophisticated locking mechanism in the spool that halts the fall’s progress as soon as it detects the speed increase. Both of these inventions absorb the arrest forces to prevent injury.
Descent and rescue is a term for systems that allow for easy and safe descent from elevated areas, particularly in delicate situations that require quick escape. Using SRL technology in tandem with independent standing support, descent and rescue systems can allow for automatic controlled descent on sloped surfaces.
Education is a huge part of keeping your employees safe. If they don’t understand how their fall protection works or why it’s important, it will be more difficult to keep the workforce compliant with the law. Corners will be cut, and accidents will happen. To prevent tragedy, build and maintain a robust culture of accountability in the workplace, and encourage questions about the particulars of fall protection.
Fall protection for tools is also important. Certain harnesses will have rings or hooks that can attach to tools. That way, if a tool is dropped, it can be retrieved without having to descend to the ground, and will not be dangerous to anyone walking below. There is also a hoistable bucket available for holding large amounts of tools and supplies.
This acronym provides a basic framework that can be used to build a fall protection program for any workplace. Fostering a strong environment of mutual support and inquiry will go a long way toward keeping everyone safe at work, as will making sure all bases are covered when buying and implementing protection equipment.