Trends in ... fall protection

Getting it right

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Falls are a common cause of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Employers whose workers are exposed to fall hazards are responsible for ensuring not only that those workers have appropriate fall protection, but also that they’re trained on how to use it. Here, fall protection industry insiders describe what’s new in the field and why it’s important to remember that fall protection can be more intricate than meets the eye.

What’s new

Fall arrest platforms are one method for keeping workers safe. “Platforms typically use a cable system that allows the operator to leave the platform and move freely without detaching the safety harness, keeping the operator tethered to the platform at all times,” said Brent Hoover, director – product safety and reliability department – for McConnellsburg, PA-based JLG Industries Inc. “The technology provides a safe, productive option for workers to complete required tasks outside the platform.”

Another innovation is installed engineered systems for fall protection, according to Rob Senko, marketing manager (United States and Canada) for Cranberry Township, PA-headquartered MSA. Noting that installed vertical climbing systems can be customized for different structures, Senko said these systems “minimize the risk of improper use by the worker and give them the ability to perform their jobs more efficiently.” However, he pointed out that even though the systems are professionally installed, training workers on how to use them is still required.

Common mistakes

Using personal fall protection correctly is not as simple as putting on a pair of safety goggles, said Rick Argudin, senior trainer, 3M fall protection business for St. Paul, MN-based 3M. “There is a great deal of science behind the success and proper use of a personal fall arrest system, which is why detailed guidelines are provided to help make sure that a worker understands the abilities and limitations of each product,” Argudin explained, pointing out that incidents happen when guidelines are not reviewed adequately in training.

Another common mishap regarding fall protection is the failure to properly adjust and fit a full-body harness, notes Ray Mann, global technical services and regulatory/application engineer for 3M’s personal safety division.

“Safety harnesses are designed to support workers at multiple points on the body during a fall arrest event,” Mann said. “Improperly or loosely fitted harnesses do not provide proper distribution of forces in the event of a fall, which can lead to injury.” To help prevent this type of incident from occurring, Mann recommends that employers be more diligent in their worker training programs.

Regarding fall hazards, Shelly Mihalic, senior product marketing manager for Franklin, PA-based Honeywell Industrial Safety, spoke of the risks edges can present to workers. “Whether laying roofing, traversing a beam, or simply working near the unprotected sides of an upper floor, falls over an edge are more hazardous than other falls,” Mihalic said. “It is common to see fall protection products, not designed for coming in contact with an edge in the event of a fall, used in applications with edges.” Without protection designed specifically for edges, she said, traditional lifelines “risk being severed, particularly when anchored at foot level.” To help prevent these problems, Mihalic recommends having a competent person assess the entire application and provide guidance on selecting appropriate protection.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

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