Trends in ... fall protection
Fall protection compliance remains a problem across the country. At the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Atlanta, OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard (1926.501) was named the agency’s most frequently cited standard – for the fifth year in a row. What are the main barriers to compliance? And what are fall protection manufacturers doing to help?
Knowledge is power
A worker can’t be protected from a fall if he or she doesn’t wear fall protection. Although this may sound obvious, John Eckel, senior technical training specialist for Franklin, PA-based Miller Fall Protection, Honeywell Safety Products, believes that non-use is the most common issue when it comes to fall protection. “The excuse may be that ‘it’s just a quickie task’ or ‘the equipment is back at the truck,’” Eckel said. “Yet accidents will happen.” To help promote compliance, Eckel recommends employers provide training and create a culture of safety in their workplaces. He also recommends they reach out to experts for technical help. “A quick phone call to an equipment manufacturer’s technical support team can resolve a question as to the right fall protection solution for a job application,” he said.
Rob Senko, market segment manager, construction and mining, for Cranberry Township, PA-based MSA, also spoke of the importance of knowing what products your workers actually need to be safe. “Understanding specific work applications and making the proper selection of personal fall arrest equipment is the most important aspect of keeping workers safe while working at heights,” Senko said.
To help reduce fatigue for employees who work at height, manufacturers are creating lighter and stronger fall protection equipment, Eckel said. “Aluminum is replacing steel in hardware,” he noted, and “stronger fibers are being added to webbing as it is made thinner.” Eckel also stated that absorbent padding is being added to fall protection to help promote airflow to keep workers cool.
Senko spoke of the importance of increased awareness for leading-edge fall protection. “In the past, workers would typically use regular self-retracting lanyards, to be used above the head, for work applications in which a fall hazard over a leading edge was present,” he said. However, in this example, Senko stated that the lifeline could break over the edge.
“The ANSI Z359 standard committee has added language to the .14 standard for self-retracting devices, specific leading-edge testing requirements for products being manufactured for use around leading edges,” Senko said, adding that educating workers on selecting the right equipment for leading-edge applications “will be very important as fall protection technologies continue to improve.”
Regardless of advances, fall protection equipment is not “one-size-fits-all.”
“The most important factor in fall protection safety is ensuring that the solution used fits the specific work or task being performed,” Eckel said.
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Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association