To effectively prevent and control fall hazards on the construction site, you need to conduct a 4-step risk analysis process. Using the risk analysis process, do the following:
It's important to identify areas in which workers' tasks could expose them to fall hazards.
Ask if workers will be using portable ladders, supported scaffolds, aerial lifts, or suspension platforms to reach their work areas. You will also want to know how and where workers will use the equipment. To answer these questions:
Look at 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. A walking/working surface is any surface, horizontal or vertical, where a person walks or works.
Click on the button to see examples of areas on a worksite that have a track record of causing injuries.
A fall hazard is anything in the workplace that could cause an accidental loss of balance or bodily support that results in a fall.
Fall hazards cause accidents such as the following:
Fall hazards are foreseeable. You can identify and control them before they cause injuries. The hazards that caused the above accidents could have been eliminated or controlled had they first been identified, evaluated, and corrected.
What are possible solutions that would prevent the falls described above?
Click on the button to find out.
None of the hazards in the examples given above would have caused an injury if someone had identified, evaluated, and controlled them.
After identifying an existing or potential fall hazard, it's important to analyze the hazard by looking at its unique characteristics. Two important fall-hazard characteristics to analyze to determine risk are probability and severity.
The probability, or likelihood, that a hazard will cause a fall.
Click on the button to see three variables to analyze to determine probability.
An important part of hazard analysis is to determine how severe an injury might be as a result exposure to a hazard. Estimating the severity of an injury after a fall is difficult because it is depends on many variables. A basic rule regarding the severity of an injury after a fall is that, "it's not the fall that gets you, it's that sudden deceleration on impact."
Click on the button to see four variables to analyze to determine severity.
Part of the hazard analysis process is to determine fall distances from walking-working surfaces to lower levels so that the employer can provide appropriate fall protection equipment. Let's look at the various fall-distance rules.
Four-Foot Rule: OSHA general industry standard 1910.28(b), Walking-Working Surfaces, requires workers be protected from fall hazards on walking-working surfaces where they could fall four feet or more to a lower level.
When working less than 4 feet above dangerous equipment, guardrail systems, travel restraint systems, or equipment covers must be used. When working 4 feet or higher above dangerous equipment, guardrail systems, travel-restraint systems, fall-arrest systems, safety nets, or must be used.
Six-Foot Rule: OSHA's standard 1926.501(b) requires the use of fall protection when construction workers are working at heights of 6 feet or greater above a lower level. However, the rule does not apply to workers inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions prior to the actual start of work or after all construction work has been completed.
When working six feet or less over dangerous equipment, guardrail systems of equipment guards must be used. When working six feet or higher over dangerous equipment, workers must be protected using guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety nets.
Click on the buttons to see examples of fall hazards from which employees must be protected by the four-foot and six-foot rules.
The four-foot rule does not apply:
A worker might need require fall protection according to the six-foot rule when working:
Examples of working over dangerous equipment include:
Ten-Foot Rule: According to 1926.451(g)(1), fall protection on scaffolding is required when you are greater than 10 feet off the lower level.
Fifteen-Foot Rule: According to 1926.760, Steel Erection, each employee on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level must be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems.
It's important to understand that exposure to fall hazards can be eliminated, prevented, or controlled, especially when a combination of methods are used.
Controlling exposure to hazards in the workplace, no matter what the situation, is generally done using a strategy called the "Hierarchy of Controls" (HOC). We have developed a modified fall prevention HOC model that combines the recommendations in ANSI/ASSP Z359.2, Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program, ANSI/ASSP Z10, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, and OSHA's Hierarchy of Controls.
Exposure controls focus on strategies and methods to prevent or control exposure to fall hazards. If used alone, exposure controls are not as reliable because workers don't know why they are important. Click on the button to see information on the methods used to control exposure.
Behavioral controls focus on controlling worker behaviors to prevent falls. If used alone, behavioral controls are not as reliable as exposure controls. Click on the button to see information on the methods used to control behaviors.
Elimination is more difficult but it is by definition the most effective. Complete elimination of a fall hazard would mean not putting any workers at heights. Remember, no hazard, no harm. You can also prevent exposure to fall hazards by designing the job using methods that reduce the probability or severity of a fall. The best time to design the prevention of fall hazards on the construction project is in the preplanning phase when it is less expensive to implement.
Passive control methods are considered a higher level of protection from falls than active control methods because, when installed, they do not rely on the actions of a worker to be successful.
Active control methods are considered to be less effective because they rely on the worker to use equipment to be successful.
Click on the button to see examples of elimination, passive fall controls, and active fall controls to prevent a falls at work.
Prevention Through Design
Hole Covers: Any hole opening that measures at least two inches or more in its least dimension in a floor, roof or walking surface must be covered. Covers should be able to support at least two times the weight that will cross over them.
Safety Net Systems: Safety nets can catch the worker after a fall. They are most often found under bridgework, steel erection, demolition and maintenance operations. They should be installed as close as possible under the walking/working surface, but never allow a fall of more than 30 feet.
Personal Fall Restraint Systems: This active fall system can be a full body harness or a body belt that's rigged to physically restrict the worker from reaching an area where a fall could occur. It's designed to hold the worker back, but it does not provide support if a fall occurs. Fall restraint systems are commonly used on leading edge work such as roofs, open-sided floors and work platforms.
Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS): A PFAS keeps the worker from hitting the ground or other obstructions below. The PFAS consists of a body harness, connecting device and anchorage. It must prevent the worker from free falling more than six feet. The arresting force on the worker must be limited to 1,800 pounds or less, and the anchorage point must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds per person attached. When vertical lifelines are used, each worker must be attached to a separate lifeline.
Warnings are usually audible or visible devices that help to raise awareness of hazards. Signs, labels, posters, and lights are examples of warnings that alert workers about hazards. The effectiveness of warnings is highly dependent on the quality of training, legibility and visibility, and worker compliance. Warnings may become ineffective if, over time, workers ignore them.
Administrative controls are changes made to the way employees work. In construction, administrative controls are the policies, programs, plans, processes, procedures, and practices aimed at reducing worker exposure to hazards that elimination, passive fall controls, and active fall controls fail to eliminate. Effective administrative controls have the potential to successfully eliminate the behaviors that result in over 90% of all workplace accidents!
It's always better to eliminate the hazard so that you don't have to rely on administrative controls because they are only effective when workers comply. It's important to understand that controls that rely on human behavior are inherently less reliable.
Click on the button to see examples of administrative controls including safe work practices that can help prevent accidents.
Administrative controls to help ensure safe behaviors include safety:
Safe work practices include:
To make sure administrative controls are effective in the long term, they must be designed and used in conjunction with, and not as a substitute for, more effective or reliable hazard controls.
A project engineer was fatally injured by a fall 29 feet from a roof while measuring the roof for an insulation cost estimate. The victim fell over the edge of the root while walking backwards. 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 and was pronounced dead on arrival.
Building owners should:
WXTV will set its sights on the number one cause of fatalities on the job site, falls, and what OSHA requirements you need to know to protect yourself. Tune in to get the goods on the gear to stay safe and alive.
This second video is a webinar produced by Hub International. It's rather long, but it has a wealth information on preventing and controlling hazards.