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Course 805 - Fall Protection in Construction

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Identifying and Evaluating Fall Hazards

fallscaffold

Fall Hazard Definition

A fall hazard is anything in the workplace that could cause an unintended loss of balance or bodily support and result in a fall. Fall hazards cause accidents such as the following:

  • A worker walking near an unprotected leading edge trips over a protruding board.
  • A worker slips while climbing an icy stairway.
  • A makeshift scaffold collapses under the weight of four workers and their equipment.
  • A worker carrying a sheet of plywood on a flat roof steps into a skylight opening.

Fall hazards are foreseeable. You can identify them and eliminate or control them before they cause injuries.

Evaluating Fall Hazards

The purpose of evaluating fall hazards is to determine how to eliminate or control them before they cause injuries. Let's take a look at some important factors to consider when conducting an evaluation.

Involve Others

You may need others to help you evaluate fall hazards. Involve those who may be exposed to fall hazards and their supervisors; they'll help you identify the hazards and determine how to eliminate or control them. Involving others also strengthens your safety and health program. Your workers' compensation insurance carrier and OSHA will also help you evaluate fall hazards. Contact your insurance carrier to request a consultation.

Accessing Elevated Surfaces

Will workers be using portable ladders, supported scaffolds, aerial lifts, or suspension platforms to reach their work areas? Which ones will they use? How and where will they use the equipment?

Identify Potential Falling Issues

For construction sites, use a set of worksite plans to review the entire construction project.

  • Evaluate each phase of the project from the ground up.
  • Ensure that all walking/working surfaces have the strength to support workers and their equipment and then identify all tasks that could expose workers to falls.
  • Identify all tasks that could expose workers to falls.

A walking/working surface is any surface, horizontal or vertical, on which a person walks or works.

The more frequently a worker is exposed to a fall hazard, the more likely it is that the worker could fall.

Identify Hazardous Work Areas

Determine if workers' tasks could expose them to the following fall hazards:

photo
  • holes in walking/working surfaces that they could step into or fall through
  • elevated walking/working surfaces six feet while performing construction and four feet for general industry (non-construction) or more above a lower level
  • skylights and smoke domes that workers could step into or fall through
  • wall openings such as those for windows or doors that workers could fall through
  • trenches and other excavations that workers could fall into
  • walking/working surfaces from which workers could fall onto dangerous equipment
  • hoist areas where guardrails have been removed to receive materials
  • sides and edges of walking/working surfaces such as established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways that are 6 feet or more above a lower level and not protected by guardrails at least 39 inches high
  • ramps and runways that are not protected by guardrails at least 39 inches high
  • leading edges - edges of floors, roofs, and decks - that change location as additional sections are added
  • wells, pits, or shafts not protected with guardrails, fences, barricades, or covers
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Task Frequency vs. Exposure to Falls

The more frequently a worker is exposed to a fall hazard the more likely it is that the worker could fall.

Determine If and How Workers Need to Move

Determine whether workers need to move horizontally, vertically, or in both directions to do their tasks. How workers move to perform tasks can affect their risk of falling. Knowing how they move to perform tasks can help you determine how to protect them.

Determine the Degree of Exposure

Generally, the more workers are exposed to a fall hazard, the more likely it is one could fall.

Determine Hazardous Walking/Working Surfaces

Identify walking/working surfaces that could expose workers to fall hazards. Examples: floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork, beams, columns, trusses, and rebar.

Task Frequency vs. Exposure to Falls (Continued)

Determine Fall Distances

Determine fall distances from walking/working surfaces to lower levels. Generally, workers must be protected from fall hazards on walking/working surfaces where they could fall six feet or more to a lower level.

Here are some examples of fall hazards from which employees must be protected by the "six foot rule":

  • holes and skylights in walking/working surfaces
  • wall openings that have an inside bottom edge less than 39 inches above a walking/working surface
  • established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways with unprotected sides and edges
  • excavations with edges that are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barriers
  • wells, pits, shafts and similar excavations

At any height, workers must also be protected from falling onto or into dangerous equipment. Guardrails must be designed and built to meet the requirements of 1926.502(b). Covers must meet the requirements of 1926.502(i).

Identifying and Eliminating Fall Hazards

guardrails
To prevent falls, use guardrails like those shown above.
(Click to enlarge)

As we mentioned earlier, eliminating a fall hazard is the first and most effective fall-protection strategy in the fall protection hierarchy of controls. Here are some ways to eliminate or reduce exposure to fall hazards:

  • Perform construction work on the ground before lifting or tilting it to an elevated position.
  • Install permanent stairs early in the project so that workers don't need to use ladders between floors.
  • Use tool extensions to perform work from the ground.
  • Identify fall hazards that you can't eliminate. If you can't eliminate fall hazards, you need to prevent falls or control them so that workers who may fall are not injured.
  • Ways to prevent falls include covers, guardrails, handrails, perimeter safety cables, and personal fall-restraint systems.
  • Ways to control falls include personal fall-arrest systems, positioning-device systems, and safety-net systems. Use these fall-protection systems only when you can't eliminate fall hazards or prevent falls from occurring.

Administrative Controls

anchorages
If workers use personal fall-arrest or restraint systems, they'll need secure anchorages for their lifelines or lanyards.
(Click to enlarge)

Administrative controls help prevent falls by influencing the way people work. Examples include substituting a safe work practice for a risky one, training workers how to do their jobs safely, and disciplining those who don't follow safe practices.

Necessity of Anchorages

If workers use personal fall-arrest or restraint systems, they'll need secure anchorages for their lifelines or lanyards. Anchorages for personal fall-arrest systems must be able to support at least 5,000 pounds per attached worker or be designed with a safety factor of at least two - twice the impact force of a worker free-falling 6 feet. Anchorages for personal fall-restraint systems must be able to support at least 3,000 pounds per attached worker or be designed with a safety factor of at least two - twice the peak anticipated dynamic load.

Scenario

On September 17, 1997, a 32 year old male project engineer was fatally injured when he fell 29 feet from a roof while measuring the roof for an insulation cost estimate. The victim was walking backwards while measuring when he fell over the edge of the roof. A maintenance person from the building who had accompanied the victim and two co-workers to the roof immediately ran downstairs and called 911 from the office and proceeded to the victim to offer assistance. Emergency medical services arrived immediately. The victim was transported to a nearby local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Employers should:

  • employ alternative controls for fall hazards when personal fall arrest systems are not required nor appropriate
  • develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive safety program that includes, but is not limited to, training all employees in fall hazard recognition

Building owners should:

  • consider the installation of guardrails at the perimeter of flat roofs wherever possible

Fall Hazards

This is a very good short video by ClickSafety that summarizes fall hazards and protection systems.

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The purpose of evaluating fall hazards is to determine how to eliminate or control them after they cause injuries.

2. Which of the following might be able to help you identify fall hazards in your construction worksite?

3. Generally, workers must be protected from fall hazards on walking/working surfaces where they could fall _____ feet or more to a lower level.

4. Anchorages for personal fall-arrest systems must be able to support at least _____ pounds per attached worker or be designed with a safety factor of at least _____.

5. Ramps and runways should be protected by guardrails at least _____ high.


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.