2020 Fall Protection

Trends in ... fall protection

‘More than installing a guardrail’

It’s been nine years since the Fall Protection – General Requirements Standard (1926.501) moved to No. 1 on OSHA’s Top 10 list of most cited violations, knocking off the previous top-spot holder, Scaffolding (1926.451). And it has stayed in the top slot ever since. Why? Experts who spoke with Safety+Health had some thoughts to share on the subject.

Workers need to understand …

“Fall protection is more than installing a guardrail at the roof edge to protect people,” said Daniel Huntington, national sales manager for Buffalo, NY-based Kee Safety Inc. “Most people believe that the edge of the roof is the most dangerous area; however, there are additional dangers lurking up on the rooftop. Understanding how workers get on and off the roof, and if those access points are safe, are there unprotected skylights where people could fall through and rooftop obstacles or changes in level – that all poses a danger.”

Added Oliver Auston, chief innovation officer at Pure Safety Group in Pasadena, TX: “A truly complete fall protection program includes dropped objects and confined space rescue.”

Another aspect workers need to understand? “Not all fall protection PPE can be used in every application,” said Anne Osbourn, marketing manager of the construction segment at MSA The Safety Co., based in Cranberry Township, PA. Continued awareness training is one solution employers can use to combat this issue, she added.

Auston seconded that notion, but got more specific, focusing on lanyards. “They need to pay attention to the leading edges (where a surface changes), as LE can cause damage to lanyards if the lanyards aren’t specifically designed for LE applications,” he said. “There needs to be more awareness of this, that consistent, effective training is essential to staying current in the area of fall protection.”

Customers need to understand …

“In the current pandemic situation, despite the requirements for social distancing or limitations on in-person interaction, there is still a need for basic fall protection training, especially as jobsites start going back to work,” Osbourn said. “Training doesn’t have to be limited to a traditional classroom setting. There are options out there for virtual-led training courses on everything from competent person inspection to confined space and rescue.”

Auston said he’s been fielding questions on cleaning and replacing fall protection equipment. “The good news is, more people are following our advice to always use, care for and maintain their equipment according to the manufacturers’ guidance, to keep both equipment and the people who use it safe,” he said. “This is always important and is a good defense against COVID risks.”

Beyond COVID-19, what needs to be protected first on a rooftop? “Access points are the most frequented hazard on any rooftop,” Huntington said. “Workers are exposed to this risk twice – every time they enter and exit the roof to perform tasks. If a worker is required to access the roof eight times per year, they are exposed to the access point hazard 16 times. OSHA requires that all ladders and hatches be secured with a self-closing gate and safety-compliant railing.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

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