Fall hazards Protective Measures

Basic Scaffold Safety

According to the BLS there are thousands of scaffold-related injuries – and about 40 scaffold-related deaths – every year in the U.S. If you are doing work on scaffolds, know how to work on them safely – it could save your life!

  1. Training: Each employee who performs work while on a scaffold must be trained by a competent person qualified in the subject matter to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and to understand the procedures to control or minimize those hazards. The training shall include the following areas, as applicable
    • The nature of any electrical hazards, fall hazards and falling object hazards in the work area;
    • The correct procedures for dealing with electrical hazards and for erecting, maintaining, and disassembling the fall protection systems and falling object protection systems being used;
    • The proper use of the scaffold, and the proper handling of materials on the scaffold;
    • The maximum intended load and the load-carrying capacities of the scaffolds used; and
    • Any other pertinent requirements of 1926.454, Training Requirements.
  2. Supported Scaffolds: Every supported scaffold and its components must support, without failure, its weight and at least four times the intended load. The intended load is the sum of the weights of all personnel, tools and materials that will be placed on the scaffold. Don't load the scaffold with more weight than it can safely handle. The working platforms/decks must be planked close to the guardrails. Planks are to be overlapped on a support at least six inches, but not more than 12 inches. Inspections must include:
    • Checking metal components for bends, cracks, holes, rust, welding splatter, pits, broken welds and non-compatible parts.
    • Covering and securing floor openings and labeling floor opening covers.

1. Which of the following is an OSHA requirement for supported scaffolds?

a. Planks must be at least 12 inches from toeboards
b. Intended load includes personnel only
c. Planks must overlap between six inches and 12 inches
d. The scaffold must support two times the intended load

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Basic Scaffold Safety (Continued)

How much weight should each rope on a suspended scaffold support?
How much weight should each rope on a suspended scaffold support?
  1. Suspended Scaffolds: Each rope on a suspended scaffold must support the scaffold’s weight and at least six times the intended load. The following is also required:
    • Platforms must be at least 18 inches wide, (there are some exceptions), and guardrails and/or personal fall arrest systems must be used for fall protection any time you are working 10 feet or more above ground level.
    • Guardrails must be between 39 and 45 inches high, and midrails must be installed approximately halfway between the toprail and the platform surface.
    • Counterweights for suspended scaffolds must be able to resist at least four times the tipping moment (calculated by a qualified person). They must also be made of materials that cannot be easily dislocated (no sand, no water, no rolls of roofing, etc.).
  2. Fall Protection. Fall protection is required when working on a scaffold 10 or more feet above the ground. OSHA requires the following:
    • The use of a guardrail OR a personal fall arrest system when working on a supported scaffold.
    • Do you think this ladder provides safe access to the scaffold?
      Do you think this ladder provides safe access to the scaffold?
    • Both a guardrail and a personal fall arrest system when working on a single-point or two-point suspended scaffold.
    • A personal fall arrest system when working on an aerial lift.
  3. Lifelines: The lifeline must be tied back to a structural anchorage capable of withstanding 5,000 lbs of dead weight per person tied off to it. Attaching your lifeline to a guardrail, a standpipe or other piping systems will not meet the 5,000 lbs. requirement and is not a safe move.
  4. Protection from falling objects: Toe boards, screens, and debris nets must be in place to protect other people from falling objects.
  5. Climbing on cross braces is not allowed! Ladders, stair towers, ramps, and walkways are some of the ways of providing safe access.

SOURCE: Adapted from Construction Safety & Health Fall Hazards, Central New York COSH, 2007, OSHA grant product.

2. Lifelines must be able to support _____.

a. the intended load plus 5,000 lbs
b. 5,000 lbs of dead weight per person tied to it
c. a total of 5,000 lbs plus materials
d. five times the intended load plus materials

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Fall Protection for Workers

Employees who are exposed to falls and required to use fall protection should:

  1. Be familiar with and understand the company's written fall protection plan.
  2. Complete initial fall protection education that includes instruction, "how-to" training, and "hands-on" practice. Employees must demonstrate adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) and be evaluated by a competent person.
  3. Use fall protection equipment if required for the job. Be sure the equipment is right for the task, fits properly and is in good condition.
  4. Inspect fall protection equipment and devices before and after each use.
  5. Make sure sturdy guardrails or covers protect floor holes, open shafts and riser penetrations.
  6. Get specialized training before working on scaffolds, lifts or ladders.
  7. When using scaffolds, make sure there is proper access, full planking, stable footing and guard railing.
  8. Keep your feet firmly on the platform of a boom lift and tie-off at all times.
  9. Choose the correct ladder for the task, read the instructions and be sure the ladder is in good condition. Check for surrounding hazards, stable footing and the proper angle.
  10. Identify skylights and make sure they are properly protected with covers or guardrails.
  11. Contact your supervisor if you see fall hazards or have any questions about fall prevention. Do not work until unsafe conditions have been corrected.

3. Initial fall protection training should always include _____.

a. at least 10 hours of classroom training
b. instruction, "how-to" training, and "hands-on" practice
c. successful completion of a written exam
d. annual retraining and evaluation

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Employer Requirements

Provide Fall Protection

OSHA’s fall protection standards require employers to provide fall protection for you when you are exposed to a fall hazard. The standards set the criteria and practices for fall protection systems and required training. The standards cover hazard assessment, fall protection and safety monitoring systems. The standards also address controlled access zones, safety nets, and guardrail, personal fall arrest, warning line and positioning device systems.

OSHA requires employers provide for "prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves."

Your employer is required to assess the workplace to determine if the walking/working surfaces on which you are to work have the strength and structural integrity to safely support workers.

The employer must not permit you to work on those surfaces until it has been determined that the surfaces have the strength and structural integrity to support all workers.

Once your employer has determined that the surface is safe for workers, they must select one of the permitted types of fall protection for the work operation if a fall hazard is present.

For example, if you are exposed to falling six feet or more over an unprotected side or edge, your employer must select a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system to protect you. There are similar requirements for other fall hazards.

If personal fall protection systems are used, your employer must pay particular attention to identifying attachment points and to ensuring workers know how to properly don and inspect the equipment.

4. If you are exposed to falling _____ over an unprotected side or edge, your employer must select a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system to protect you.

a. four feet or greater
b. at least five feet
c. six feet or more
d. over ten feet

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Employer Requirements (Continued)

Provide Fall Protection

Must an employer train their employees to properly use required fall protection equipment?
Fall arrest equipment training. Photo courtesy of Honeywell Safety Products - Miller fall protection.

The following are some things your employer should do to prevent fall hazards at your worksite:

  1. Develop a written fall protection plan.
  2. Identify potential fall hazards prior to each project and during daily walk-around inspections.
  3. Pay attention to hazards associated with routine and non-routine tasks.
  4. Eliminate the need for fall protection where possible by rescheduling the task, isolating the task, or changing the task.
  5. Ensure fall protection equipment is appropriate to the task, in good condition and used properly.
  6. Conduct general fall prevention training on a regular basis.
  7. Train workers about the specific fall hazards identified and the required personal protective equipment.
  8. Conduct regular inspections of fall protection equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and OSHA’s requirements.
  9. Emphasize fall hazards unique to the site, such as open floor holes or shafts, riser penetrations and skylights.

5. Which of the following is important for the employer to do to prevent fall hazards at your worksite?

a. Pay attention to hazards associated with routine and non-routine tasks
b. Emphasize generic hazards common to all worksites
c. Focus on annual fall protection training
d. Consider fall arrest devices as your primary fall protection strategy

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Employer Requirements (Continued)

Fall Protection Training

"Show-and-Tell" is the best way to train fall protection!

The employer must assure that each employee has been trained, as necessary, by a competent person qualified in the following areas:

  • The nature of fall hazards in the work area;
  • The correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling, and inspecting the fall protection systems;
  • The use and operation of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, warning line systems, safety monitoring systems, controlled access zones, and other protection to be used;
  • The role of each employee in the safety monitoring system when this system is used;
  • The limitations on the use of mechanical equipment during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs;
  • The correct procedures for the handling and storage of equipment and materials and the erection of overhead protection; and
  • The role of employees in fall protection plans; and
  • The standards contained in the employer's and OSHA's applicable fall protection standards.

6. Who must conduct fall protection training for the employer?

a. Certified professional
b. Experienced worker
c. Designated person
d. Competent person

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Do you think this worksite is well maintained?
Do you think this worksite is well maintained?

Proper Scaffold Construction

The employer must ensure that a competent person is available to direct workers who are constructing, moving, changing, or dismantling scaffolds. The competent person must:

  • train workers on how to construct, move, change and dismantle scaffolds,
  • inspect the scaffold and its components before every work shift, and after any event that could affect the structural integrity of the scaffold.
  • be able to identify unsafe conditions, and
  • be authorized by the employer to take action to correct unsafe conditions, to make the workplace safe.
Does a competent person need to inspect the scaffolding?
Does a competent person need to inspect the scaffolding?

A competent person is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to workers, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. A qualified person is someone who has very specific knowledge or training, and is responsible for scaffold design and its rigging.

  • The employer must provide safe access to the scaffold when a platform is more than two (2) feet above or below the point of access, or when you need to step across more than 14 inches to get on the platform.
  • A guardrail system or a personal fall arrest system is required for scaffolds more than 10 feet above a lower level. In addition, employers must provide safe access to scaffold platforms.

    Ladder Use and Condition

    Your employer is required to provide suitable ladders where necessary and maintain the ladders in proper condition. They must also train workers to recognize ladder and stairway hazards. They must ensure all defective ladders are tagged and placed out of service.

    Worksite Maintenance

    The employer must ensure the construction site is free of clutter and tripping hazards, and site equipment and machinery is in good working order.

    Poor worksite maintenance can lead to clutter and debris on a construction site, creating additional slip, trip and fall hazards. Poor maintenance of ladders, scaffolds, and fall protection equipment can also lead to serious injuries. Your employer is required to keep worksites free from form and scrap lumber with protruding nails and other waste and trash, including combustible debris.

    7. What is required if a defective ladder is found on the construction site?

    a. Use duct tape to fix the ladder and continue using
    b. Tag the ladder and remove it from service
    c. Place to the side as a spare ladder
    d. Warn users with a "Caution - Ladder defective" sign

    Check your Work

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    Optional Exercise: Personal Fall Arrest System Checklist

    Personal Fall Arrest Systems are one way to protect workers on construction sites where there are vertical drops of 6 or more feet. Systems must be set up so that a worker cannot fall more than 6 feet, nor come into contact with any lower level. If you have time, answer each of the yes/no questions below to get a good idea of the quality of your Personal Fall Arrest System. Hopefully, you'll be able to answer Yes to each question.

    1. Is your Personal Fall Arrest System made up of an anchorage, connecting device, and a full- body harness?
    2. Are the components from the same manufacturer to ensure that the system works as it should? If not, has any substitution or change to a personal fall arrest system been fully evaluated or tested by a competent person to determine that it meets the standard?
    3. Has your personal fall arrest system been inspected for damage each time before you wear it? [If there are defects, or if someone has taken a fall using the equipment, it must be removed from service.]
    4. Is the attachment location of the body harness in the center of your back, near the shoulder level or above your head?
    5. Do vertical lifelines or lanyards have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbs? Are they protected against being cut or abraded?
    6. Will each worker be attached to a separate vertical lifeline?
    7. Is the webbing, [the materials used for ropes and straps of lifelines, lanyard and harnesses] made of synthetic fibers?
    8. Is the anchorage for workers' personal fall arrest equipment independent of any anchorage used to support or suspend platforms? Is it able to support at least 5,000 lbs. per worker attached to it?
    9. Are the connectors made from steel or equivalent materials, with a corrosion-resistant finish and smooth edges?
    10. Do the D-rings and snaphooks have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 lbs.?
    11. Are snaphooks of a locking-type and designed to prevent the snaphook from opening and slipping off the connector?
    12. Are the snaphooks not directly connected to the webbing, rope or wire, to each other, to a D- ring to which another snaphook or other connector is attached, to a horizontal lifeline, or to any other object that could cause the snaphook to open?

    Source:Construction Safety & Health Fall Hazards, Central New York COSH, 2007, OSHA grant product