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:
Fall hazards are foreseeable. You can identify them and eliminate or control them before they cause injuries.
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.
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.
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?
For construction sites, use a set of worksite plans to review the entire construction project.
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.
Determine if workers' tasks could expose them to the following fall hazards:
The more frequently a worker is exposed to a fall hazard the more likely it is that the worker could fall.
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.
Generally, the more workers are exposed to a fall hazard, the more likely it is one could fall.
Identify walking/working surfaces that could expose workers to fall hazards. Examples: floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork, beams, columns, trusses, and rebar.
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":
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Building owners should:
This is a very good short video by ClickSafety that summarizes fall hazards and protection systems.
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