Is your facility fall-proof? Especially in industrial facilities, fall prevention is an essential part of maintaining overall building safety. In recognition of this important area of focus, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hosting a week-long awareness campaign aimed at helping businesses and facility managers boost their fall prevention safety measures. As a facility manager, it's important to brush up on the essentials of fall safety to keep your workers' feet on the ground where they belong.
Falls are a serious danger
Far from simple missteps or embarrassing gaffes, falls in the workplace, especially at a building site, can lead to serious injury or even death. Unfortunately, proper fall prevention is an area that does not see enough attention from employers. According to Today's Facility Manager, the most frequently cited OSHA violation is insufficient fall protection. Sadly, these oversights can have dire consequences. Falls and fall-related injuries are the leading cause of on-the-job death among construction workers, leading to 300 fatalities in 2012.
Fortunately, preventing falls is well within the control of facility managers. Falls are hugely preventable with only a modicum of preparation. With proper building maintenance, safety tools and worker training, it's possible to make dangerous falls a thing of the past.
Keeping things grounded
Preventing workplace falls is one part maintenance and one part proper equipment. OSHA provided a thorough outline of steps that can be taken to keep things safe. One basic step is to keep an eye out for open and unprotected drop zones. Especially common among construction sites, unprotected building sides, grates and manhole covers create serious fall risk. When at all possible, such areas should be closed off unless they are being actively worked on. Guard rails and safety nets should be used to add an additional level of protection between workers and gravity.
In addition to minimizing potential danger zones, workers should be provided with properly functioning safety equipment. OSHA requires any workers at a site with a vertical drop of more than six feet to wear a personal fall arrest system. Consisting of a body harness and heavy duty clips attached to lifelines, such systems should be kept in proper maintenance at all times. As a matter of safety, ensure lifelines should be rigged so that a fall of more than six feet is impossible. OSHA also indicated that harnesses should not exert an arresting force of more than 1,800 pounds in order to prevent broken bones due to the force of the harness. And of course, any equipment that has deteriorated or experienced fall damage should not be used.