Preparing to Prevent Falls
Fall Prevention Program
A construction fall prevention program is what you and your coworkers do to prevent falls on construction sites. But every fall prevention program looks different, and not all programs are successful.
What makes a successful fall prevention program?
Every formal fall prevention program contains at least seven elements:
- Commitment: All employees - including company executive officers, managers, and supervisors - are committed to making the program succeed.
- Accountability: All employees - including company executive officers, managers, and supervisors - are held accountable for following safe work practices.
- Involvement: All employees, including managers and supervisors, participate in making the program succeed.
- Hazard identification: All employees are trained to identify hazards, and there are procedures for conducting hazard inspections and reporting hazards.
- Accident investigation: Competent persons promptly investigate all accidents and near misses and then determine how to eliminate their causes.
- Training: All employees receive training in identifying construction worksite hazards, learning how to use fall protection equipment, and using safe work practices. This program element most often inspected and cited by OSHA is training. Why? Because they know it is the element most likely to have violations.
- Evaluation: Managers and supervisors, with help from other employees, evaluate the program's strengths and weaknesses at least once a year.
Work sites need competent and qualified persons.
Prepare a Safety and Health Policy
Does your company have a written safety and health policy? It should. A written policy does the following:
- it reflects a commitment to a safe and healthful worksite,
- it summarizes management and employee responsibilities, and
- it emphasizes the safety and health program's role in achieving that goal.
Keep the policy brief, commit to it, and enforce it. Look at a sample policy.
Competent Persons (CP) and Qualified Persons (QP)
Certain activities throughout OSHA's standards require completion by either a Competent Person (CP) or a Qualified Person (QP). These persons must have the training and expertise to evaluate hazardous conditions, inspect equipment, evaluate mechanical systems, or train others to work safely.
Click on the buttons to see OSHA's definitions and a discussion of competent persons and qualified persons.
A competent person is one who:
- is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees; and
- has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. [1926.32(f)]
A competent person must have authority to take prompt measures to eliminate hazards at the work site and have the experience to be capable of identifying those hazards.
Instruction, training, and experience are ways that an employee can become competent, but attending lectures isn't enough. The employee also needs to be able to demonstrate their capabilities to the employer.
A qualified person is one who:
- possesses a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or has extensive knowledge, training, and experience, and
- has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project. [1926.32(m)]
A qualified person must have a recognized degree, profession certificate, or extensive experience and ability to solve the subject problems at the worksite. There may be a requirement for more technical or engineering knowledge.
For example, a competent person can identify electrical components and have a general knowledge of electrical hazards. However, a qualified person would have additional knowledge, skills, and training to do specialized electrical work tasks.
Choosing a Competent or Qualified Person
Competent and qualified persons must have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).
Although federal OSHA defines competent and qualified persons, the definitions don't provide specifics for determining who can assume these roles.
To help determine if someone meets the qualifications as a competent or qualified person, the employer can do the following:
- Know the OSHA rules that apply to the construction worksite. The rules will indicate the need to designate a competent/qualified person.
- Note the specific competent/qualified person duties and responsibilities.
- Give competent/qualified persons the authority to take prompt corrective action to eliminate hazards
- Determine the required knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) competent/qualified persons need to meet the OSHA requirements.
- Designate persons who have the requisite KSAs that meet OSHA rule requirements.
- Verify competency by preparing a written certification record containing employee identity, date of training, and the trainer and employer's signatures.
Duties and Responsibilities
Competent and Qualified Persons have many important responsibilities.
The competent person
The responsibilities of a competent person include the following:
- Serving as the monitor in a safety-monitoring system and recognizing hazards that cause falls and warning workers about them.
- Determining that safety nets meet minimum requirements.
- Evaluating alterations to fall-protection systems and determining if the systems are safe to use.
- Supervising the installation of slide-guard systems.
- Ensuring personal fall-arrest systems are removed from service after they arrest a fall, and determining if the systems are undamaged and suitable for reuse.
- Determining if fall-arrest systems are undamaged and suitable for reuse. Note: For the maritime industry, this responsibility is assigned to qualified persons.
- Training employees who might be subject to falls to recognize hazards that cause falls and follow procedures that minimize fall hazards.
- Evaluating employees to ensure they have adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to properly use fall protection systems.
The qualified person
The responsibilities of a qualified person include the following:
- Supervising the design, installation, and use of horizontal lifeline systems to ensure that they can maintain a safety factor of at least two (twice the impact of a worker free-falling 6 feet).
- Supervising the design, installation, and use of personal fall-arrest and fall-restraint anchorages.
The two-story home workers were framing when the accident occurred. Photo: Courtesy: NCDOL/OSH
A construction laborer was fatally injured when he fell through a floor opening to a concrete floor approximately 10 feet below.
The victim had spent the majority of his work shift cutting plywood sheathing and handing it up to coworkers who were sheathing the roof. He was working from the second floor of a
two-story, single-family home under construction where he and other workers had completed most, but not all, of the subfloor (plywood sheathing secured over floor joists) on previous workdays.
They had left a floor area open in an attic space where a walk-in closet was to be constructed later. At the end of the shift, the victim’s lead worker asked two workers to complete
the second story subfloor in the attic space. One of these workers joined the roofers to lay roofer’s felt. The other co-worker joined the victim and together, they cut two sheets of plywood sheathing
and placed them over the joists in the open area in the attic space.
They were not wearing fall protection. The co-worker reported he was looking down at the sheets of unsecured plywood sheathing trying to make the pieces fit into an opening that was
not square and when he looked up the victim was gone. The victim had apparently stepped onto a piece of the unsecured plywood sheathing that covered part of the floor opening, and when the plywood
sheathing pivoted on the floor joist, he fell through the opening.
- Ensure all employees are provided with and use appropriate fall protection when exposed to fall hazards.
- Ensure through employee training and job-site inspection that correct construction procedures, such as use of appropriate fasteners, are followed during all phases of construction.
- Develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive, written fall prevention program that, at a minimum, complies with applicable OSHA fall protection standards.
- Assign a competent person to inspect the worksite before work begins and after work is completed for the day to identify fall hazards and to determine the appropriate fall protection systems for workers.