Protecting employees from falls is a concern for all facility managers, not only in the event of construction or remodeling, but year-round. Falls are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths with 291 workplace deaths and over 25,000 disabling injuries in 2014 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To keep your fall protection program up to date use a maintenance system with preplanned work orders, ensuring that building staff will complete annual inspections in a timely manner.
The Who, What and Where
According to OSHA standards, a drop of 4 feet or more from one level to the next is considered a fall in non-construction settings. That is barely more than the fourth rung on a ladder. Employees in general industry perform work on lifts and ladders, walk on stairs and in areas where there may be holes, and can be exposed to elevated floors with unprotected sides. Factory, warehouse, and maintenance staff are most likely at risk, but protective measures should be taken in any area that a fall may occur, even office space.
The Cost of A Fall
The ultimate and immeasurable cost of a fall is a human life. On-site injuries result in lost time and a lower employee morale. There is also real dollars and sense to implementing proper fall prevention. A fall injury is met with by OSHA with a $50,000 fine and a $50,000 future compliance fee. Average insurance pay outs of $850,000 for a death and $4,000,000 for a serious injury can lead to steep increases in insurance premiums. Serious on-the-job injuries often result in litigation as well, with an average settlement cost of $750,000. A well-maintained fall prevention system can add to up big savings in risk management.
Proper Fall Prevention
There are a number of ways facility managers can protect workers from falls, including conventional systems such as guardrails, safety nets and personal fall arrest systems, as well as through the use of safe work practices and training. For most non-construction buildings, signage and patricians may be more appropriate than conventional fall protection for many activities. Whether conducting a review or developing a comprehensive fall protection plan, reviewing previous incidents recorded in your facility management system will enable you to identify problem areas. When identifying a fall hazard, analyze the likelihood of fatal or serious injury, as well as the amount of time employees will be exposed to the hazard. You want to eliminate the fall by changing the work process or environment.
Create annual future work orders using an integrated building management system to ensure yearly inspections are not overlooked. If personal fall protection systems are on-site, particular attention should be given to identifying attachment points and to ensuring that employees know how to properly don and inspect the equipment. Lack of instruction, or in instruction an inaccessible language, is the key reason equipment is misused or not used at all. Don't wait for a fall to occur before taking action to update your fall protection plan.